illustration of building site
Finnish timber and architectural design are exported worldwide. Image: Julia Bushueva

FIVE FROM FINLAND: Wooden construction and design

Around 86 per cent of Finland is covered by forestry land, meaning that there is nearly 4.6 hectares of forest per capita. A source of inspiration for local architects and designers, it has also been exported around the world in various shapes and sizes.

Zhanna Koiviola

Tsui-Shan Tu

28.03.2022

Wood is a fascinating building material whose full potential is yet to be discovered despite being the oldest and one of the most widespread. Finland has provided strong economic and political support for wood construction. The Wood Building Programme (2016–2022), a joint government undertaking coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment, aims at increasing the use of wood in urban development and public buildings and highlights its ability to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry. Accelerating climate-friendly construction with wood is an essential step for Finland to reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

The appreciation of wood as material is being improved also through various study programmes for architects, engineers and designers interested in exploring the many possibilities of timber, including the renowned Wood Program offered by Aalto University. The curriculum requires students to swiftly move between lecture rooms, laboratories, design studios and workshops.

Moreover, with established co-operation between the industry, businesses and academia, Finland takes pride in its strong wood building ecosystem, which makes it an attractive destination for international investors.

Here are five Finnish companies that are doing their part in promoting wood for construction and interior applications.

Stora Enso

wooden high-rise building

According to Stora Enso, wood as building material creates a pleasant indoor climate with a positive effect on health and wellbeing and is the perfect choice to build sustainable cities. Image: Stora Enso

Stora Enso is the forerunner in wood modular construction and offers advanced engineered wood products such as LVL (laminated veneer lumber) and CLT (cross-laminated timber). Globally the biggest supplier of CLT, Stora Enso believes in the future of wood for the construction business.

“The construction industry is concerned about climate mitigation across their whole value chain, so they are turning to more sustainable construction materials like wood,” explained Lauri Linkosalmi, senior manager for product stewardship.

With the principle “nothing goes wasted”, by-products of the sawing process can be used to produce pellets that serve as a source of sustainable energy. Furthermore, the company’s environmentally friendly, non-toxic wood-based adhesive that bonds single-layer panels together, Lineo, was awarded as the bio-based product of the year in 2018 and is now being used in many corners of the world. As the demand for fossil-free and circular solutions is soaring, NeoLigno, another material innovation by Stora Enso, has recently been used to create the world’s first fully wood-based furniture board in co-operation with fellow Finnish company Koskisen.

“I believe wood plays a major role in helping us reach a sustainable future and improving our wellbeing while doing it,” said Johanna Pirinen, senior vice president for sustainability in wood products at Stora Enso.

Honkarakenne

the interior of a log house

With over 60 years of expertise in log construction, Honkarakenne aims to “bring the life force of the northern woods and sunshine into people’s lives”. Image: Honka

Founded in 1958 by five brothers residing in a forest with the shared dream of everyone in the world living in Finnish log houses, Honkarakenne became the world’s first industrial manufacturer of log homes.

“Finnish pines are the building materials with best qualities. They are organic and natural, dense and strong. All our wood comes from PEFC-certified forests, so they are also 100 per cent renewable,” said marketing director Sanna Huovinen. “They are like naturally breathing walls that can absorb and release moisture and heat. Logs keep indoor air quality at an optimal level, and according to research they also create a stress-reducing environment.”

Only renewable energy is used during Honkarakenne’s production process, in which all surplus materials and waste are harnessed as energy. Until now over 85 000 log structures have been built worldwide in the shape of log cabins, restaurants, holiday resorts and more.

Continuously looking for new ways to further improve its work, Honkarakenne is now involved in building Finland’s first carbon-negative daycare centre in Vantaa. Once completed, the building will be a carbon storage for its entire lifetime.

Lunawood

a wooden cabin on an island

Suitable for facades, interiors and landscaping, Lunawood Thermowood has been used in a high number of construction projects, including the award-winning summer cabin located on an island in the Finnish archipelago and known as Project Ö (pictured). Image: Lunawood

Being one of the first companies to develop thermowood through an innovative wood treatment method in the 1990s means this company is a global market leader. The thermal modification of timber makes it durable with superior weather endurance. Moreover, this beautiful wood material is made without any chemicals by using only heat and steam, which makes it a sustainable choice throughout its life cycle.

Combining solid quality, decorative possibilities and Nordic design, Lunawood Thermowood has appealed to customers in over 40 countries in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and other parts of the world.

Last year, the company celebrated its 20th anniversary, with the Green Good Design Award 2021 becoming yet another feather in its cap. The award recognised Project Ö, a summer cabin project in the Finnish archipelago that widely featured Lunawood’s material solutions, for its sustainable design and ability to create a positive impact on the environment.

“We are very proud of every single project featured with Lunawood during this 20-year journey, as we know that our wood has constituted a long-lasting and sustainable choice for each project,” commented Maija Masalin, vice president for marketing and product management.

Siparila

wooden interior of a house

Siparila offers natural wood cladding and wall panelling products to architects, constructors, designers and homeowners looking to create new inspiring spaces or transform existing ones. Image: Siparila

Named after a little village where the founder’s grandfather was born, this company is a leading wood interior decoration and exterior cladding provider. It only uses PEFC-certified wood and was the first company in Finland to be granted a certificate for priming and top-coating panels.

Its topcoat wood siding combines wood processing and specific paint technology. All the panels are pre-painted at the factory, which increases building efficiency and leaves no odour on site.

One popular interior panel product line, Pala, enables users to decorate their interior wall by gluing the desired shapes and pieces to the wall with adhesive, as a do-it-yourself concept. “Anyone who doesn’t have special skills and experience in this can easily do it,” assured CEO Juha Sojakka.

Even if you’ve never heard of Siparila before, some of the many projects the company worked on will surely ring a bell. Siparila was responsible for the new wooden exterior of Helsinki Olympic Stadium, as well as the fire-retardant cladding of Allas Sea Pool, a wellbeing oasis nestled in the heart of the Finnish capital.

“Siparila is proud to be the industry leader,” Sojakka summarised. “We help our customers utilise the best features of wood to enhance the decorating and constructing experience for both home decorators and professional builders.”

Helin & Co. Architects

the wooden Metsä pavilion in Tokyo

Designed by Helin & Co. Architects, Metsä Pavilion in Tokyo was shortlisted for the World Architecture News Award 2021 and Puupalkinto Prize 2021. Image: Helin & Co. Architects

Finnish architects continue to showcase how wood can be used in combination with other materials to create architecturally impressive, yet human-centred spaces and environments.

One prominent example of utilising this abundant resource is Helin & Co. Architects.

“Wood has always been the main building material in Finland, as we haven’t had much choice, so we have a long heritage of using it in all kinds of buildings,” pointed out Totti Helin, design director of the company. “Wood is sustainable and renewable, and, when taking care of forests properly, we have an endless supply of materials.”

Helin & Co. Architects’ extensive portfolio includes both small and big-scale projects, from a shed in the Turku archipelago to the awarded modular offices Finnforest and Metsä Pavilion, a unique space in Tokyo designed for Finnish companies to create contacts and promote exports in Japan.

Several other contemporary architect offices have also demonstrated their exceptional skills in dealing with wood, such as Oopeaa, whose founder, Anssi Lassila, received the Pro Finlandia Medal in December, JKMM, which designed Viikki church and Think Corner of the University of Helsinki, and K2S, which designed Helsinki’s award-winning wooden chapel of silence.

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