Sweco, an expert consulting company in the built environment and industry, is looking for growth in Central European construction markets. After purchasing Grontmij, Holland’s leading construction design and consulting company, Sweco is Europe’s leading consulting and engineering company with 14,500 employees in 15 countries.
Ismo Tawast, Managing of Director of Sweco Rakennetekniikka Oy, sees the effects of the acquisition as two-fold. “Sweco’s portion of Central Europe’s construction projects will grow, and on the other hand we can bring European know-how to Finnish projects. Through the acquisition we now get a foothold where, in addition of know-how, there is familiarity with local markets and construction regulations.”
According to Tawast, via the acquisition the company has also gained great expectations for wood construction and opportunities for collaboration. “We are no longer just a Scandinavian company, we are a European one, which has a broad scope of technological knowledge in wood construction and an interface with a larger wood construction market.”
“Central European markets interest us because they have realised for example industrial wood construction projects efficiently for many years. In Finland, the story of industrial wood construction is for the time being a short one, but as a result of development work we, too, have achieved many high-quality, competitive sites,” says Tawast.
Tawast notes that the full potential of wood construction has not yet been measured, and its breadth is not yet necessarily even recognised. “Prefabricated, industrially produced wood-structure components and systems are the future of wood construction. In development work we need to be visionary, but simultaneously ensure the timely functionality of solutions.”
Development of wood construction requires collaboration and ground rules
Sweco Rakennetekniikka Oy was formed as a result of mergers of many traditional Finnish design companies. “We have purposefully developed our own know-how in designing and developing wood structures, as well. We have been able to work with numerous suppliers of wood constructions systems and to develop solutions and systems already on the market.”
“We want to support development work in wood construction, while at the same time understanding that we have a responsibility to use our expertise to offer the correct materials for the correct sites. We can offer our customers broad-ranging experience with all construction materials, which enables optimised solutions that are cost-effective and have a long life-cycle that benefits our customers,” Tawast notes.
Tawast sees a challenge in wood construction because there has been less collaboration among businesses in the wood sector than in other materials, where development work has been done over the long term and in close cooperation through umbrella organisations. “We are now in a phase where collaboration and common ground rules are in part lacking. Developed systems do not yet even come close to covering all of the needs in the field,” Tawast points out.
Wood construction up to par with Central Europe
Tawast expects clear goals and plans from the wood product industry for well-defined development work. “It is important to select those segments in construction that are best suited for wood construction. Wood construction companies should focus first and foremost on where wood structures have the greatest potential,” Tawast stresses.
Tawast reiterates that the final breakthrough for wood construction as industrial, large-scale construction is not an easy hurdle. “We have to accept that before wood construction becomes normal, large-scale industrial construction, it takes time and requires a commitment from different parties in construction. We must obtain certificates for the products, perform studies and research that prove the functionality and durability of wood structures in different sites and conditions.”
According to Tawast, Sweco wants to offer services for research and development in the industry as well as for development of construction site technology. “Wood construction changes practices and structures in construction. In the future, construction must pay more attention to quality, dry construction in industrial conditions, occupational safety as well as management of construction schedules and processes. We need to raise the bar to the level of Central Europe in these areas, as well.”
Sustainable development technology comes to construction
Sweco’s goal is to find wood construction solutions among other countries’ practices that are suited for Finland’s conditions and culture. “I believe that through Sweco’s expansion we, too, will get new know-how for Finland’s sites. Projects and expertise know no national boundaries.”
Sweco emphasises sustainable development solutions in all its operation, and sustainable development technologies will inevitably become part of all national and international projects. Construction is often hybrid construction, where long life-cycles of materials, functionality and efficiency play an increasingly central role.
“In addition to these factors, construction designers are expected to have not only full proficiency in construction technology but also expertise in regulations, flexibility of buildings to meet changing needs, structural safety and even the fundamentals of HVAC,” Tawast says.
Still, Tawast reiterates that ecological and life-cycle questions in construction are much more prominent in Central Europe and other Nordic Countries than in Finland. “Here, construction is still driven too much by investment costs, but in the long term life-cycle efficiency will affect construction decisions more and more.”
Article Service Markku Laukkanen
With a market share of nearly 40%, Sweco Rakennetekniikka Oy is the leading construction design company in Finland and employs almost 700 construction technology professionals. Of them, about 70 work in wood construction design.
The company provides product and system development as well as wood construction design for multi-storey buildings, industrial halls and large-frame wood structures, public and sports arena construction as well as bridge and infrastructure construction. The company has been the designer for numerous buildings at the Sochi Olympic Games, log structures in Russia and Ukraine as well as sports arena construction in Great Britain and the Czech Republic. In Finland the most significant wood construction sites are the Joensuu Arena, Mansikka-Aho school in Kouvola, Pudasjärvi educational campus, Omenamäki and Keltakanelinaukio wooden multi-storey residential buildings in Helsinki, Heinola’s ja Kivistö’s puuMera multi-storey residential buildings, Jyväskylä’s Puukuokka, the VIP terminal at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as well as the Wood City wooden multi-storey residential building, office building and hotel currently being designed for Jätkäsaari in Helsinki.