A wooden school centre for 1,000 pupils has been completed in the town of Limeil-Brévannes near Paris. The school centre, which covers an area of 9,500 m², contains three pre-school/day-care centres and two schools. France’s largest wooden school centre was designed by French architect Véronique Klimine and Finnish architect Olavi Koponen who is currently working in Grenoble. It was the first project that they had done together. According to Koponen, building the school centre of wood was a requirement of the town's leaders. Public wood construction is growing in France, as a result of the debate on the mitigation of climate change, the energy efficiency of construction and emissions from construction. According to the builder of the school centre, the competitiveness of wood construction is based on the shorter time required to install wooden elements on site compared to traditional construction. The landmark of the school building is a high triangular tower, which has on it a mermaid and octopus by Finnish artist Lauri Ahlgren.
Austrian architect Hermann Kaufmann, who is renowned for modern wood construction, says that Finns have lost contact with the tradition of wood construction. ”The situation in Finland is now the same as in Austria about 20 years ago. Now we should promote the evolution, not the revolution, of construction, and continue the strong tradition of wood construction in Finland too. In Austria, we succeeded in this change, because we did not lose contact with our strong expertise in carpentry,” says Kaufmann. ”Because wood construction has a future, it is worth investing resources in construction quality and training, and convincing the public sector that the promotion of wood construction is justified both economically and ecologically.” According to Kaufmann, more low-emission, renewable building materials must be used in future construction. ”The concrete industry fears this change, and expects that mistakes will be made in wood construction. If it were sensible and clever, it would co-operate with the wood construction industry.”
The processing of wood products and an increase in exports may create many thousands of new jobs in Finland, and the effect on Finland’s balance of payments may be €200-300 million. An interim report from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy's Strategic Programme for the Forest Sector (MSO) presents estimates of the social and employment impact of wood construction. ”The most significant impact on employment and the economy will occur through growth in the export of wood construction products,” says Sixten Sunabacka, Strategic Director of the MSO programme. The achievement of €500 million of export growth based on the MSO objectives as an addition to the export of wood construction products would lead to the creation of several thousand new jobs and to an increase in GDP of about €1 billion. Tax revenue would grow by more than €70 million and gross stumpage earnings by about €60 million.
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.”
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.
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.
Minister of Employment and the Economy, Jyri Häkämies, sees the development of wood construction as part of green industry, which is enjoying strong global growth. ”The commercial prerequisites are being created for a concept of future construction, in which wood with its small carbon footprint can be a part of energy-efficient intelligent construction that utilises digital technology. ”The breakthrough for the construction of wooden apartment blocks can be achieved by implementing new projects that combine element production, intelligence and energy efficiency. Because this is a key part of the prerequisites for the internationalisation and export of the green economy, it must be invested in.” The aim of the wood construction programme in the government programme is to achieve a 10% market share in wooden apartment block construction, which means about 1,300 homes in such blocks every year. ”The government considers it important that new innovation and products are found for the forest industry that can make up for the jobs lost in the paper industry.”
In the coming years, environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be applied comprehensively to construction. New energy regulations for the construction of new buildings entered into force at the beginning of July, but new regulations especially for repair and renovation will come into effect at the beginning of 2013. In the next few years too, the environmental impact of building materials will have to be taken into account in future construction. Jarek Kurnitski, an energy specialist at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, thinks that the new construction regulations will improve the competitiveness of wood construction. ”Wood construction will manage better in this than other forms of construction, because it acts as a carbon sink so, as a building material, it does not cause emissions,” says Kurnitski. In Kurnitski’s opinion, additional development investments should now be targeted at wood construction.
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.”
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.

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