Advocate of Wood Construction in the Ministry of the Environment

Wood has played an important role throughout the career of fifty-year-old Petri Heino, M.Sc. (For.), whose studies also include forest industry-related marketing. The small-town boy from Riihimäki realised that wood was his thing while working in the forestry department of Paloheimo Oy. Since then, his career has been multifaceted: a year on a student exchange programme in the United States, sawn timber sales, wood construction promotion at Puuinfo and Wood Focus, lobbying for the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, travelling in Europe and North America as a senior advisor, and four years in wood construction projects at the Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences. Since the first of August this year, he has held the post of Programme Director in the Ministry of the Environment.

“This wood advocator post is a perfect opportunity for me. I believe that my professional experience and networks will benefit the Ministry in many ways. I know the wood construction industry and its operators from designers and manufacturers to R&D and educational institutions.” 

According to Heino, Finland does not lag behind Central Europe in terms of wood construction volumes, but we have a lot to learn in the area of innovations. “Our basic level of know-how is good, but somehow we don’t seem to be getting anywhere, even though we could take a proper leap forward in wood construction.” 

As Programme Director, Heino’s task is to promote wood construction as part of one of the government’s key projects and the development of industrial wood construction expertise. “New materials, industrial solutions and industrial prefabrication have taken wood construction to a completely new level since the first projects in the late 1990s.” 

During his two-and-a-half-year contract, Heino wants to give the development of wood construction a boost. Even though a lot of progress has been made in residential construction and construction solutions, large-scale industrial residential construction is still finding its way.  

Wood construction has huge potential 

According to Heino, the use of wood in construction is spurred on by demands for improved productivity and quality, the transition to carbon-efficient construction, increased significance of the positive healthimpacts of wood construction and measures to improve the added value of wood. 

“I see huge potential in wood construction, and I will advocate for it,” says Heino. “I will be the voice and lobbyist for it towards both the government and the general public. We need to develop construction legislation, create incentives and promote favourable attitudes towards wood construction. Narrow views on the use of wood make us stick to old operating models in wood construction.”  

According to Heino, steering by information based on knowledge and research results cannot remove psychological obstacles. We have to find new ways to strengthen the credibility of and trustworthiness of wood construction. “The best way to do this is to continually increase the number of successful wood construction projects.” 

According to Heino, the time of experimental wood construction is over. “We already have industrial systems allowing for the extensive use of wood in the construction of multi-storey buildings and in complementary building. Now is the time to seek a stronger foothold for wood in urban development, to strengthen wood construction expertise through new life-cycle projects, and to improve international competitiveness in terms of design, production and construction systems.” Heino believes that cost-effective solutions will find a market in the Nordic countries. 

Aim: revision of fire safety regulations and increasing education 

Heino would like to revise the fire safety regulations to allow leaving solid wood surfaces exposed if the building is equipped with a sprinkler system. Increased wood industry education and public wood construction as part of the climate policy would also promote wood construction. 

As for European practices, Heino points to the Swedish model. In it, research and the construction business have found each other in an exemplary way. The public sector has also adopted wood construction in its housing production. “In Switzerland, the management of structural element production from design to manufacturing brings correctness, accuracy and high quality to the entire construction chain. We are good at wood architecture in Finland, and the role of quality and aesthetics alongside efficiency is on the increase again.”

“I feel that the Ministry has accepted me well. I will be happy about my performance in the programme if, at the end of 2018, wood plays a significantly larger role in housing production than it does now.”