February 7, 2013

Vast markets for wood-based construction

The growing global significance of climate, environmental and natural resource issues is opening up new wood-construction markets in Finland.
The growing global significance of climate, environmental and natural resource issues is opening up new wood-construction markets in Finland.
Puuinfo / Michael Perlmutter

The roots of wood construction in Finland run deep, but there is still room for growth, especially in new apartment building construction and in renovations, as well as in public-sector construction. The outlook for exports also looks bright.

Forestry is an important industry for the entire Finnish economy and constitutes one fifth of the nation’s export revenues. Forests generate more than 100 million cubic metres of wood annually, 55 per cent of which is utilised.

“Wood construction’s significance in creating wellbeing through forestry is greater than its volume suggests: it is the source of raw material supply for the whole forest industry, says Mikko Viljakainen, managing director of Puuinfo. “The use of wood in construction is linked to considerable growth opportunities.”

“Sooner or later, the whole world will have to switch to using renewable natural resources and accept that they can only be used to the extent that they are renewed,” adds Antro Säilä from Metsäteollisuus ry. “Wood is a good example of a sustainably used, renewable natural resource that continues to store carbon when used as a construction material, consumes little energy and results in low carbon dioxide emissions.”

Heaps of potential

Almost every Finnish leisure home is built from wood. Wood is used in around 40 per cent of all new building construction, and in some 80 per cent of single-family-house construction. In industrial, warehouse and business premise construction, wood accounts for 15–20 per cent, whereas the share of wood used in apartment building construction is less than one per cent.

“The use of wood can potentially be greatly increased particularly in new apartment building construction and renovations, and in public-sector, industrial, warehouse, and agricultural construction, as well as in bridges,” Viljakainen stresses.

Säilä agrees.

“In Sweden, for example, 20 per cent of all apartment buildings are wood-framed. Finland could achieve at least the same relative shares as its neighbour to the west.”

A global leader

Today, log buildings in particular are exported globally, not to mention wood components that end up in construction one way or another. Viljakainen and Säilä agree that in the vast, worldwide construction-product markets, there is demand for technologically high-level Finnish wood know-how.

“Tremendous potential exists, also for high-level design solutions. The use of wood is increasing in global construction, both for environmental reasons and because of dwindling natural resources, and this, in turn, is creating new opportunities for Finnish industry,” Viljakainen says.

In recent years, Finland has seen positive development where wood construction is concerned: fire regulations have been amended, industry has introduced new products in the markets, municipalities are planning areas consisting of wooden apartment buildings, and new competencies have emerged in the industry. New energy-efficiency regulations are also promoting the use of renewable energy in construction.

“The future looks extremely bright for Finnish wood construction,” says Säilä.

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