The speed of wood construction a significant competitive advantage

Timo Sotavalta, Head of Real Estate Investments at Etera Mutual Pension Insurance Company, considers the speed of wood construction to be its key competitive advantage. "Speed has a great impact on the whole chain of building costs as, for the investor, the time during which capital is tied up is shorter and the customer can begin to receive leasing returns more quickly,” says Sotavalta. ”There are lessons to be learned from the construction and site practices for the multi-storey wooden apartment complex commissioned by Etera at Viikki in Helsinki, and in future we will benefit from even more savings in time.

Ari Tiukkanen, Senior Vice President Building Products at Metsä Wood, a parts supplier for the project, also believes that the construction schedule on building sites can be further accelerated in the future: ”Together with investors, contractors and builders, we must develop the logistics of construction. The prerequisites for the breakthrough of wood construction already exist, because we have a competitive product.”

Tiukkanen admits that, from the customer’s perspective, speed is a key issue. ”If we can build a wooden apartment building six months more quickly than a concrete one, capital is correspondingly tied up in the project for six months less. This speed considerably affects the overall costs of construction and the return on investment. For investors, there is great potential in wood construction,” says Tiukkanen.

At the Viikki site, the frames of the buildings were quickly joined to the roof using a column-and-beam system. After that, the intermediate floors and walls were installed and, as light-weight constructions, could be lifted directly into position from the truck. ”The logistics of this kind of construction was planned with care, and has worked superbly at Viikki,” says Tiukkanen.

”The Viikki project does excellently in a critical comparison, in which we have been able to achieve the benefits we had been targeting in terms of the competitiveness, speed and lightness of the building process,” says Tiukkanen. ”A high degree of industrial prefabrication and speed of construction are a prerequisite for the success of wood construction in a competitive situation. Industrial prefabrication in the factory shifts the work from the building site to the factory, and is the foundation of the competitiveness of wood construction. In the next projects, we must develop the construction processes, so that speed can be utilised even more efficiently as savings that can be measured in euros. Combining building technology with prefabrication can also be improved further.” The benefits of wood construction in ecology, speed and lightness

”Since consumers are interested in environmental issues, we at Etera want to focus on sustainable construction, the ecology of construction and the emissions it generates,” says Sotavalta. ”Etera wants to be a promoter of energy-efficient and sustainable construction, which can also have an impact on future construction trends. Of course, the main thing is that the end result is good and that we can produce high-quality buildings of all materials that will last for decades.

Timo Sotavalta thinks that wood construction itself does not need to be cheaper than other kinds of construction, because its benefits lie in its speed and lightness. ”The competitiveness of wood construction may improve even more in future as energy-efficiency requirements and carbon footprint emissions become norms that incur costs,” predicts Sotavalta.

In Ari Tiukkanen’s opinion, the ecological aims and norms of building have an impact on the entire life cycle of construction. ”For example, at the Viikki site the only waste that was generated was wood-based waste suitable for energy production, which means a major saving for the project,” says Tiukkanen. ”Official regulations should be impartial towards all materials, and not be either in favour of or against wood. From the perspective of the carbon footprint, norms can set either carrots or sticks for the use of different materials. In construction, it’s good to talk about ecology, but up to now such talk has not had any financial value at the negotiating table. "

The competitiveness of wood construction continually improving

Tiukkanen thinks that the construction of the wood complex at Viikki is a good experience and, based on that, he is ready for the next project. ”The financial credibility of wood construction stems from the successful implementation of projects like this. In future, we hope to get good building partners that can operate throughout Finland. Wood construction needs good, skilled partners for major building projects. For construction companies, the construction of multi-storey wooden apartments is interesting insofar as it is comparable to housing construction in practice. If the building of apartment blocks is carried out as a frame-ready delivery of wooden parts, it gives the opportunity for even small- and medium-sized building firms to act as builders at individual sites. Up to now in Finland, the construction of multi-storey apartment blocks has been a market only for major construction companies, and small firms have had nothing to do with it,” says Tiukkanen.

”As far as wood construction is concerned, there is now a major market for repair and rebuilding work in old concrete apartment blocks,” believes Tiukkanen. Building technology can be linked with TES (timber-based element system) elements, additional light-weight storeys can be built, lift shafts and balcony accesses can be built outside, freeing up inner passages for residential use,” says Tiukkanen. ”In the future, we will be able to refine old buildings and increase their value by utilising the possibilities of wood construction.”

Puuinfo article service/Markku Laukkanen

More information:

 Ari Tiukkanen, Senior Vice President Building Products, +358 (0)50 5987293, ari.tiukkanen@metsagroup.com

Timo Sotavalta, Head of Real Estate Investments, +358 (0)40 732 5577, timo.sotavalta@etera.fi