The use of prefabricated wooden facade elements in the renovation of old concrete apartment blocks has proved to be a cost-effective and technically feasible method. According to architect, Kimmo Lylykangas, the renovation to passive level of an apartment block at Peltosaari in Riihimäki using the TES method has been a technical and economic success. ”As an end-result, I can say that the TES method is a highly significant and competitive alternative for repair and renovation construction. The dimensioning of elements, their installation and the integration of building technology were a complete success. The greatest challenges concerned ensuring the comfort of residents during the construction period, and the development of building site practices, by which the length of construction time can be significantly shortened and cost efficiency improved.” In the Riihimäki renovation project, a 75% saving in heat energy was targeted, which can of course only be verified with certainty after the first heating season is over. Indoor air was further improved thanks to a renovated air-conditioning system, and the air-tightness of the building was improved almost to the standard of a passive building. At the same time, according to residents the sound insulation and architectural look of the building were greatly improved. ”We are now seeking new apartment block renovation projects using the method, as well as an industrial-scale method of renovating small residential houses,” says Jukka Sevon, Product Development Manager of Paroc Oy. ”In the current economic climate, it would be good if major building corporations also got into repair and renovation work. Based on the experiences of the Riihimäki Innova project, the TES method is useful for carrying out renovation projects on a large scale.
The renovation to a passive level of the Innova apartment block in the Peltosaari district of Riihimäki with prefabricated passive wooden façade elements has been completed. In the opinion of Seppo Keskiruokanen, Mayor of Riihimäki, the Peltosaari project has become a nationally significant suburban development project, the experiences of which can also be transferred to the renovation and development of other suburban neighbourhoods. ”The renovation of this block of rental apartments to a passive level using the TES (timber-based element system) method attracted organisations developing energy-efficient construction. The TES method is new and so attracted a great amount of interest amongst professionals in the field, both at home and abroad,” says Keskiruokanen. The manager of the Peltosaari project, Irene Väkevä-Harjula, believes that the development of the TES method will further increase interest in the refurbishment of suburban neighbourhoods and that reproduction of the method will be suitable for the large-scale modernisation of these areas. ”The renovation of the Innova building was launched at the same time as an ideas competition for Peltosaari. The publicity received by the Innova building was also a help to the ideas competition, for which we received 61 very good entries.”
Minister of Housing and Communications, Krista Kiuru, thinks that a large number of Finnish apartment blocks built in the 1960s and 70s are ageing, and should undergo repair and renovation work to improve their energy efficiency. ”We have accumulated an enormously large bill to pay for repairs. We can no longer afford to not to make these buildings more energy-efficient,” says Kiuru. ”Pilot projects carried out show that the energy consumption of old apartment blocks can be reduced through cost-effective construction solutions.” Kiuru believes that investments required for such repairs will be recouped many times over by residents and owners, when they can live for a long time with significantly lower costs. In repair and renovation work, Kiuru sees more opportunities for growth and employment than in new construction. ”In the current economic climate, we can also consider counter-cyclical measures to boost repair and renovation construction. We now need to specialise in repair and renovation, to provide training in it and to establish best practices through pilot projects, to show how we can repair large apartment block complexes as cost-efficiently as possible.
Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, is currently conducting several programmes aimed at the development of the construction business. ”Tekes’ interest in being involved in the development of the wood construction business is to find diversity for building, says Reijo Kangas, Director of Real Estate and Construction Industries. The common denominators of these programmes are energy-efficiency, ecology and services enabled by digital information technology. According to Kangas, Tekes is aiming to grasp the systemic change currently underway in construction, and to promote the access to markets of new innovations and construction service production.
The preparation of the RunkoPES industrial standard, a harmonised measurement and jointing system for industrial prefabricated wood construction initiated by the wood products industry is on the home straight and ready to be used by those interested in doing so. Up to now, the lack of a harmonised system has been a barrier to the development of industrial wood construction. ”This removes a significant deficiency from the industry, now that we finally have a harmonised standard,” says Mikko Viljakainen, Managing Director of Puuinfo. Markku Karjalainen, Development Manager of the Wood Construction Programme at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy believes that the open standard will accelerate the breakthrough of industrial wood construction.
According to Professor Matti Kairi of Aalto University, in Europe there have been positive experiences about the health effects of wood construction. Wood is seen as part of good resident-centred architecture and living environments. ”Wood is considered aesthetically beautiful and calming, at its best a material that is beneficial to care work,” says Kairi. The impact of wood and forests on the human mind has been researched surprisingly extensively in different parts of the world. Japan and Norway have done thorough research, according to which it can be said that wood has a positive psychological effect. Architecturally harmonious solutions, a restful palette of colours, a pleasant living environment and wood as a building material stimulate aesthetic pleasure, increase the feeling of calmness and thus make people feel good.
Seven kilometres from the centre of Tampere, a new small town for 13,000 residents called Vuores will be built. The City of Tampere has set an ambitious target for the project - to carry out future construction by combining high-quality architecture, ecological building, a sense of unity, high technology and proximity to nature. The Vuores project will include a small modern district of 4,000 inhabitants called Isokuusi.
Aalto University, the Ministry of Employment and the City of Espoo are working together to develop wood construction. The aim is to combine science, technology, design and architecture with the energy-efficient construction of the future.
The Minister of the Environment, Mr Ville Niinistö, who is in charge of Finland’s climate policy, considers it necessary that new, more material efficient and energy efficient solutions are found in construction. Using concrete in construction has a large carbon footprint in terms of natural resource consumption and is coming to the end of its path, says Niinistö. Bearing in mind climate goals, the construction industry, too, must move on to low-emission materials. Niinistö sees wood building as a good example of the possibilities in the green economy and a step towards sustainable consumption. Increasing building with wood has significant influence not only on reaching the climate goals, but also on product development, export and employment. Finland has a chance to showcase wood building as one of its expertise areas in urban planning and to thus promote its export in the field of construction know-how, says Minister Ville Niinistö.
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.

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