Satakunta and Southwest Finland find ways to promote low-carbon wood construction

While Turku often shows the way in wood construction, the sector is also actively promoted elsewhere in the regions of Satakunta and Southwest Finland.

Text: Dennis Somelar, project manager, the Finnish Forest Centre

Read the article in Finnish here.

The new addition to the Panelia learning centre is made from wooden volumetric elements. In rental sites like this, the ownership of the building can typically be transferred to the municipality for a fee when the rental period ends. Photograph: Dennis Somelar

The City of Turku has been an important pioneer in the construction of wooden multi-storeys in Finland with almost thirty completed buildings over three storeys tall. Most are in Turku’s Linnanfältti district, which has a rather unique zoning plan that mandates wooden construction. The district is proof of wood construction’s ability to create fresh, startlingly innovative urban spaces even in city centres.

An increasing number of cities and rural municipalities in Satakunta and Southwest Finland are now also taking an interest in wooden construction. To design its Uotila wooden school project in 2021, the City of Rauma joined the wood construction accelerator group set up by the Ministry of the Environment and Motiva. In this project, Rauma aims to build a wooden school for about 375 children using as much solid wood as possible. Wood construction is also spreading into rural municipalities as it is seen as a way to promote low-carbon construction and invigorate local business.

Kokemäki looks into wood construction to reduce emissions

Municipal strategies increasingly include goals for low-carbon construction, which can be met by using wood. For example, the City of Kokemäki in Satakunta just drew up a climate programme that envisions wood construction as a means for increasing environmental friendliness. The programme also includes the aim of having future construction projects use as many wooden structures as possible.

Rural municipalities find wood construction appealing for several reasons: wood has environmental benefits, it promotes good health, and there are many financing options available. Many municipalities also have older buildings that suffer from mould damage, which not only means problems for users, but can also discourage potential inhabitants from moving into the municipality. When indoor air quality is a top priority, solid wood and logs in particular are popular building materials.

The school in Vehmaa in Southwest Finland is a good example of a construction project to replace a mould-damaged school. Completed in 2019, the new school is as environmentally friendly as possible and has superior indoor air.

The Vehmaa school was built using logs. Local citizens were active in choosing the project’s materials and construction method. Photograph: Dennis Somelar

The diversity of financing models and the ability to relocate buildings also makes wood construction interesting to municipalities. In wooden construction projects, municipalities can rent the necessary volumetric elements instead of making a large initial investment. Volumetric elements are particularly popular for building temporary structures, but they are gaining ground in permanent buildings as well. The school in the village of Panelia in the municipality of Eura provides an example of volumetric elements blending smoothly into their surroundings. The municipality expanded the school into an entire learning centre by adding a 1,000 square metre movable building. The new addition required an investment of only EUR 120,000. The municipality will pay rent to FM Haus Oy while the building is in use, totalling EUR 2 million over 10 years.

THE AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE Dennis Somelar is an architect by training, whose passion and expertise are strongly related to the promotion of wood construction. He has significant experience and achievements in wood construction promotion projects. During his career, he has worked e.g. as an entrepreneur and did research work at the University of Tampere, focusing especially on the construction of wooden apartment buildings and the utilization of wood in the construction of additional floors. His professional skills and experience in the field of wood construction have made him a respected expert who is able to offer innovative solutions and visions for sustainable construction. Somelar is currently working as a project manager in the Finnish Forestry Center’s “Southwest Finland is built from wood” project, the aim of which is to promote wood construction and the operation of wood products companies in Satakunta and Varsinais-Suomi.