Wood construction speeding up among municipalities

A free public wood construction advisory service launched a year ago to bring municipalities together to develop and pick up the pace of public wood construction. For wood construction to increase its popularity, additional expertise is required above all. But, municipalities also need to find and adopt new procedures suitable to them.

Text: Minna Mattsson
Read the article in Finnish: Kuntia kiritetään puurakentamiseen

A new Nilonkangas elementary school and daycare centre is built in Kuusamo in 2021 to 2023. Image: Luovaus Arkkitehdit Oy

To meet growth targets, public wood construction needs to spread much more rapidly. Wood construction has been identified as a way of cutting climate emissions and promoting low carbon in municipalities.

When looking for ways to increase wood construction in the public sector, the focus is on increasing awareness among municipalities, learning from what other municipalities have done, and having an open discussion on issues that still need development.

Acceleration through peer learning

As part of its public wood construction advisory service, Motiva brought a group of municipalities together in the spring of 2021 to learn about public sector wood construction and to share their respective experiences. The group had 10 municipalities that had actual wood construction or development projects in the pipeline or underway. The group included Haapajärvi, Hamina, Helsinki, Kuhmo, Kuusamo, Kärkölä, Porvoo, Rauma, Savonlinna and Simo. They all were working on their own wood construction projects, school and social and health care buildings, exercise facilities, municipal planning projects, and wood construction strategies.

The discussion was joined by various experts, who brought much needed information and tips on wood construction to the table. Municipalities are looking for peer reviews and expert input on the most topical issues around wood construction. These include costs, public procurement issues, the situation in the market, concerns around low carbon, opportunities for building technology, and project management. The municipalities in the group also had an opportunity to get mentoring from experts on their specific projects.

In the Accelerator Group, the town of Kuusamo has developed a mainly wooden volumetric element to be used in a patient room of a social and health care building. Image: Antti Karsikas, Alt Arkkitehdit Oy

Hopes for a better market and dialogue

The participants felt that the biggest challenges for public wood construction were currently the low number of bids received and the market’s capacity. Municipalities in the Accelerator Group also identified other issues, such as the need to standardise wood construction and to more actively distribute information to avoid creating each solution from scratch. Collaboration with all stakeholders is an absolute necessity. Decision makers need to have the right information at their finger tips. The costs in particular must be clear from the very beginning, including anything stemming from the specific features of wood construction. It is also important that clients and suppliers exchange information and be in a dialogue, particularly in the early stages of projects and even when preparing a call for tenders. Designers and contractors also need information on the best known practices in their work.

The discussion in the Accelerator Group exposed a need to have a better sense of the market situation. VTT (the Technical Research Centre of Finland) has received funding from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment to carry out a national market survey in the spring of 2022. This survey will be useful to suppliers to public entities across Finland. It will offer all builders for the public sector more data on the current operators in the wood products industry and forecasts on future developments.

Free advisory service for municipalities

The wood construction Acceleration Group is part of the Motiva public wood construction advisory service, which is funded by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment as part of its Wood Construction programme (2016–2022). Motiva will start up a second public wood construction Accelerator Group in spring 2022. This group will focus on repairing wood buildings and on developing solutions for municipal renovation needs.

Motiva’s Puuakatemia, which will dive into different themes, is another free training opportunity for municipalities. A number of courses will be arranged in spring 2022. The spring online training focuses on zoning, land use, lifecycle assessment, energy efficiency, fire regulations, acoustics, and experiences with wooden schools in Finland and abroad.

Free expert support for municipal wood construction projects is just a message or phone call away. The advisory service provides access to experts to answer questions about wood construction from municipalities and cities.

For more information, see www.motiva.fi/puurakentaminen.