Wood strengthening its position in Finland’s construction industry

The Association of Wood Product Industry in Finland (Puutuoteteollisuus) joined forces with The Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT (Rakennusteollisuus RT ry) in January. The Managing Director of the Association, Mr Mikko Viljakainen, stresses that the construction industry is currently going through a time of transition. EU regulations, together with national ones, climate change, and requirements for improved energy and material efficiency all pose new challenges for future building.- We do not imagine the new regulations will be based on terms set by wood alone, but we see it as important that wood has a role in them, as an ecological, renewable material, says Viljakainen.

New energy efficiency requirements, coming into force July of this year, aim at improving energy efficiency in new buildings by approximately 20 per cent. The long-term goal is to make the change to zero energy houses by the end of the decade, where special attention is given to environmentally friendly energy production methods, insulation and ventilation.

The Association aims at facilitating the development and implementation of new, competitive wood construction solutions and products. - We want to be able to introduce a new, competitive alternative to construction that will respond to the current challenges in the construction industry related to energy and resource efficiency. We are not seeking subsidies or reliefs, we are merely looking for an equal competition standing and a situation where competition takes place according to mutually agreed on criteria. The Association promises to do its part for the common good and at the same to take good care of its own know-how and standards etc. so that wood also remains a competitor in the construction race in the future, says Viljakainen.

In the field of various wood products, building with wood has grown significantly in Finland, and even more so in the export market. Growth may appear in both quantity and value. The wood industry has seen a new kind of activity around creating new construction solutions, and therefore it is only natural that the industry has a stronger presence wherever it is possible to have an influence on opinions and decisions on regulations, standardizing and education. Recently, the major wood industry companies that have operated as part of the forest industry have also co-operated in construction industry activities. - Participation is the best way to influence construction industry policies and interests already in the preparatory stage. The construction industry can, among other things, offer us their expertise in standardizing and environmental issues, something the wood industry may greatly benefit from, says Viljakainen.

Regulation changes to set new challenges for building

 - If we look at the future of building from the point of view of various environmental and natural resource issues, it seems evident that the use of wood in building will increase at the international level, estimates Mikko Viljakainen. Finland should play a part in this development, also taking full advantage of its potential in the export market. In the domestic market, we should ensure that the designers are able to compare the environmental effects of building projects as early in the designing process as possible. Building with wood has far-reaching significance for the national economy, as increasing the use of wood would serve the forest industry resource chain as a whole, notes Viljakainen.

The goal of the Association is to establish an internationally competitive wood construction industry in Finland. To reach that goal, Finland needs wood construction projects that gather international interest. Finnish building regulations should be taken to the forefront of the European development, something that would benefit the construction industry as a whole. The solutions developed in Finland are not internationally competitive if our regulations are trailing behind other European countries. Expertise should also be raised to match or exceed that of the competing countries. First and foremost, the market is in need of competitive commercial solutions in building with wood.

- In recent years, we have taken giant steps towards the goals set in 2009, says Viljakainen. Fire regulations have been renewed, and energy regulations are moving in the right direction, too. Material efficiency will also be included in building regulations, which is very good for us. There are more and more new industrial solutions offered in the wood construction sector, which in turn makes it possible to increase productivity, Viljakainen concludes.

Written by Markku Laukkanen, Finnish Timber Council

Translated by Kielipalvelu Kauriin Kääntöpiiri OY / Capricorn Translations Ltd.

Further information: Managing Director Mikko Viljakainen, tel. +358 40 526 6413