According to the Ministry of the Environment’s recently published goals for increasing the use of wood in construction, the share of public wood building in Finland is going to be doubled by 2022. Wood building is seen as an effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of the housing sector.
Among many other countries, the Finnish government has committed to strictly decreasing the country’s CO2 emissions. In Finland, approximately one-third of the greenhouse gases is produced by the construction sector and so the industry is now expected to partake in reducing carbon emissions. While the whole public sector faces pressures to change the way of working towards better sustainability, some municipalities have taken a prominent role in achieving carbon neutrality and have set more ambitious environmental goals than the state.
Positive impact on people and the environment
Trees can be regarded as a carbon sink, meaning that they bind carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For example, timber houses bind carbon to the building stock and therefore, wood construction has been seen as a way to slow down the release of CO2 emissions. According to the Ministry of the Environment, wood’s positive impact on climate is one of the primary reasons to promote wood construction in Finland.
Besides its ecological sustainability and renewability, the use of wood has been in trend both due to its aesthetic appeal and positive influence on health. In the public sector, especially the education1 and health care2 fields have considered raising the amount of wood in building. For instance, various research findings that indicate wood’s benefits in hospital milieus have attracted the interest of the health care industry reports the Ministry of the Environment. The education field, on the other hand, has been struggling with severe indoor air quality problems and has thus shown interest in the possibility to attain safer and healthier spaces by shifting towards timber building.
The development of wood building technologies creates new possibilities
Due to its workability and transformability, wood has typically been used for renovating and building storey extensions. Since different wood building technologies, such as modular building, have notably developed throughout the past decades, wood can nowadays be used for more challenging structures and taller buildings. Indeed, in the future, the use of timber will be increased in constructing multi-storey3 and assembly buildings4, such as sports halls, states the Ministry of the Environment.
Wood structures’ ability to be transformed is an appealing aspect for buildings whose functions are broad. In particular, modular building allows creating spaces that can be transformed according to the needs of different user groups. These building chameleons that enable flexible user adaptation, have increased their appeal especially in fields that serve diverse users, such as health care and education.
Behind the undertaking on wood construction is also a desire to push its development forward, speed up its industrialization and increase its competitiveness. The better we become in working with wood, the easier it will be to use it in the future. It is hoped that increasing wood construction in the public sector and improving wood building capabilities would also encourage private builders to see timber as an eligible option.
1Educational buildings: Early education, general education and vocational schools, high schools, research institutes
2Social and health care buildings: Health care and social service buildings, prison buildings
3Multi-storey apartment buildings: Buildings of at least two floors that are designed for residential use, dormitories, apartments for groups with special needs
4Assembly buildings: Cultural centres, clubhouses, buildings for religious communities, sport centres
Ministry of the Environment, 2020, Julkisen puurakentamisen kansalliset tavoitteet [National objectives for public wood construction]