Modular construction solution from Stora Enso for fast construction needs

Stora Enso has introduced a modular construction solution based on CLT solid wood elements to the growing fast construction market, enabling buildings to be ready for use in just a few weeks. There is a need for fast construction in many fields in Europe, for example student housing, school construction and now the significant challenge of providing housing for refugees.

“This is a question of a high-quality, fast construction concept that is familiar to us in Europe. Using a similar system we have realised for example schools in Austria, and it has worked well,” says Stora Enso Wood Products Manager Jari Suominen.

The fast construction concept is based on a prefabricated industrial product designed in collaboration between an architect and a structural engineer. Factory-manufactured modular construction elements can be delivered to the construction site in a few weeks and installed on a prepared foundation. “We are continuously developing standardisation and expertise in modular and element-based wood construction. We want to offer customers a prepared product that is installed within a millimetre of precision at the construction site,” says Suominen.

“We are talking about a normal building, which can’t be compared to temporary container solutions,” Suominen reiterates. “If necessary, the building can later be further refined, or if it is meant for short-term use it can be moved or modified for a new purpose. Good quality, speed, further refinement and the capability to move the structure give added-value to this concept.”

Concepts based on modular construction elements are also suited for building additional storeys for old multi-storey residential buildings and for condensing urban structure. Modules form the basic concept, which works in all conditions and in different countries where there may be a need to take into account differing country-specific regulations.”

Solution for rapid housing needs for migrants

According to Suominen, the company has introduced products in Europe that are suited for the rapid construction needs caused by the refugee crisis. “The number of refugees and security require centralised housing solutions, for which our concept offers a fast and long-term solution. The product is suited for all types of rapid emergency aid needs, for example natural disasters. Fast, modular construction is extremely competitive compared to traditional construction,” says Suominen.

“Depending on the breadth of the order and the level of features, with our new concept we can talk about a cost level of a thousand per square metre installed on a prepared foundation. Digging and groundwork at the site as well as electricity and water connectivity related to basic infrastructure must of course be ready when modules arrive for installation.”

According to Suominen, industrial wood construction is competitive because it is planned in advance and changes are no longer made in the construction phase.

Europe’s wood construction market is growing

According to Suominen, strong growth is now expected in wood construction in areas of Europe north of the Alps. “With CLT solid wood solutions, Stora Enso has a strong presence in wood construction in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Northern Italy as well as France, the Benelux countries, England and Norway. The fastest growth is now in England, where CLT solid wood construction has made a good breakthrough. Numerous CLT-frame multi-storey buildings have been erected in London, indicating that wood construction has become part of urban construction.”

Suominen reiterates that although the company is technically prepared for strong growth, construction regulations have not kept up with the technical development of construction products. “We have tested the performance of solid wood elements in fires and conditions like earthquakes. Although tests have proven that solid wood elements have good fire resistance, construction regulations require them to be covered with drywall even though solid wood can be compared to concrete construction. Regulations are behind the times and do not recognise this new material, which should be quickly raised to the same level with other building materials. Only then can we also expect a commercial breakthrough for broad-based industrial wood construction.”

Suominen reiterates that in construction it must be possible to fully consider a material’s characteristics, for example the benefit of wood construction in terms of speed. “We are continuously developing the most efficient wood construction system possible for use in broad-based industrial construction. For this we need trained experts, so it is important to educate skilled experts in demanding wood structures for industrial use, which also benefits the customer.”

Wood construction reduces emissions

The extensive discussion in Europe about ecological construction is already affecting the construction industry, as these values are increasingly important to customers and residents. Suominen emphasises that wood is a renewable, sustainable development material that has scientifically proven health benefits. “While people are not yet ready to pay for this, understanding and interest are growing and the trend is toward wanting a building that is in line with sustainable development. This has been recognised and has significance in making decisions about public procurements. The fact is that wood has the lowest emissions and creates a negative carbon sink. These are big trends in Central Europe and Asia. When understanding of these issues grows, it begins to affect the market,” says Suominen.

Article Service Markku Laukkanen