A new-age wooden complex at Viikki in Helsinki

Peab Oy is building a complex of wooden residential buildings at Latokartano in Viikki, Helsinki. A total of 104 rental apartments are being built in five 3- and 4-storey wooden buildings.  Petri Suuperko, CEO of Peab Oy, considers the project to be a demonstration of Peab's expertise and a new-age wooden complex. ”At Latokartano in Viikki, we are making history in Finnish wood construction,” says Suuperko.

”Now are now seeing the rebirth of wood,” says Suuperko. ”The most fundamental change has been the development of technical expertise,” stresses Suuperko. According to him, the good aspects of concrete element construction have now been transferred to wood element construction. ”In practice, in wood construction we can already talk about the open standard result known from concrete construction. Now there are different ways to carry out system construction, but in future wooden structural parts and connections will be standardised. Industrial prefabrication has made construction efficient and fast, and has significantly reduced such things as the need for weather protection on building sites.”

Wood now a worthy challenger to concrete

According to Suuperko, wood construction has many advantages over concrete: ”Less energy is required to manufacture and transport it, erection of the frame takes place more quickly and, thanks to the lightness of the material, lighter working machinery can be used,” says Suuperko. ”The end-result is of uniform quality, as industrial components are used in the construction and the short overall time needed for wood construction makes it competitive from an overall economic perspective."

 Liisa Seppälä, Project Manager at Viikki, believes that, on the basis of experiences gained from pilot projects like Viikki, the speed of wood construction will get even faster. ”At present, multi-storey wood construction is new to everyone: the authorities, the developer and the builders. The most important difference, which professionals here on the wood construction site observe, is that the wetness and moisture associated with concrete houses is missing," says Seppälä. ”Here we can immediately begin the internal installation work without having to wait for the concrete casts to dry. In future projects, using this construction technology we will be able to save up to 20% of the time in comparison with concrete construction,” predicts Seppälä. ”A shorter time means better competitiveness.”

Petri Suuperko says that he is an advocate of hybrid construction. ”As a concrete engineer, I expect wood construction to be a worthy challenger to concrete. I hope, however, that in future it may be possible to combine the benefits of wood and concrete construction, creating a hybrid building model already familiar in the automotive industry, but with wood and concrete.”

”If a building’s foundations, lift shafts and stairwells are made of concrete, there is still much scope for the use of wood,” says Suuperko. ”Multiformity in buildings can be achieved through different materials, so it’s good if all materials are along the same lines. At the end of the day, the choice of material rests with the customer. There should be room for more alternatives so that no material is excluded.”

The standardisation of wooden parts improving the competitiveness of wood construction

The open standard familiar from concrete element construction is also now coming as a consequence of development work for wood construction. Seppälä thinks that the compatibility of the products of wood component suppliers will be one of the key factors in the competitiveness of wood construction in addition to town planning. ”It will be essential for town planning to allow wood construction. The City of Helsinki is setting a good example by planning a wooden complex in the midst of concrete blocks.

Seppälä thinks that competitiveness in wood construction will also improve as a result of faster site practices and lighter work stages. "At Viikki, we have none of the expensive, large, traditional cranes, since there is no need to lift heavy elements weighing several tones. We use small hoists by which we lift the materials into the buildings, once the frame has been raised to the roof.”

”Industrial prefabrication in wood construction has developed particularly greatly, which means that the elements can be assembled more efficiently and quickly," says Suuperko.  He thinks that, when wood construction is well planned and prepared, it is as competitive as concrete and brick construction. The Viikki project was carried out using new technology, in which the frame of the building was raised quickly to the roof, after which the intermediate floors and external walls were installed.

Official building regulations must be relaxed

Seppälä explains that not only speed improves the competitiveness of wood construction, but also its smaller carbon footprint. ”Ecology is also a matter of importance for concrete engineers. It certainly matters what we leave behind for future generations. Here we are building houses that are in energy class A, with low energy consumption and in which all construction waste can be recycled or reused. None of it is hazardous waste. In wood construction, apartments breathe better, living is healthier, and buildings are quiet and practical. It’s just like you’d be living in the countryside, even though we are in the middle of concrete apartment blocks.”

”Although ecological values are being introduced to building through energy regulations, changes take place at a snail’s pace,” says Suuperko. ”The construction industry is conservative and would rather do things the way it is used to. In addition to regulations, town planning also has a great impact on building. More than anything, through town planning we can influence the creation of good architecture, pleasant living environments and an attractive townscape.”

Experiences of wood construction must be shared

According to Seppälä, in the Viikki building project there has been much co-operation between construction organisations and the authorities. ”More than ever before, we have organised workshops for the project teams. We have established every detail concerning such things as fire and sound insulation and the tightness of the building. Through this project, we have established a sound basis for future wood construction projects. We want to convey this experienced-based knowledge on to everyone,” says Seppälä.

”Wood construction is the construction of the future,” predicts Seppälä. "Here the right material has been put in the right place. I'm satisfied with everything and I believe that the end-users will be too. As a material, wood is renewable and fully recyclable. Wooden structures also act as carbon sinks throughout the life of the building. The overall competitiveness of wood construction also comes from the fact that in Finland we build with wood in a sustainable way. For these reasons, after a career spanning three decades it was possible for me to become a wood builder,” says Seppälä.

Puuinfo article service/Markku Laukkanen

More information:

Petri Suuperko, CEO, petri.suuperko@peab.fi
Liisa Seppälä, Project Manager, liisa.seppala@peab.fi