Wooden buildings on the rise
New innovative solutions in wooden building components have allowed wood to enter into new construction end-uses traditionally dominated by concrete and steel. Massive wood elements open the way for taller wooden high-rise buildings than ever before.
Part of the bioeconomy, Stora Enso is a leading provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden constructions, and paper globally. Our materials are renewable, reusable, and recyclable, and form the building blocks for a range of innovative solutions that can help replace products based on fossil fuels and other non-renewable materials.
Stora Enso’s Wood Products division provides versatile wood-based solutions for building and housing. Our product range covers all areas of construction, including massive wood elements and wood components. We also offer sawn timber goods, biocomposites and pellets for sustainable heating.
Wood Improving the Learning Environment
The advantages of wood as a construction material have been known for some time. It’s light-weight, enables prefabrication which in turn allows for shorter construction times and dry assembly. Studies also indicate that living or studying in a wooden interiors have numerous benefits on health and well-being.
Those studies began ten years ago when a school in Austria completed an experiment on four teenage classes: Two of the classes started their school year in refurbished wooden classrooms while the other two classes entered refurbished rooms using more standard materials such as plasterboard walls and chipboard cupboards.
The students in the wooden classes experienced a significant decline in stress levels, their heart rates dropped throughout the year and it became clear that they were having a very different school experience to their classmates in the two control classes.
There are now countless studies all pointing in the same direction. So much so that researchers in 2011 were bold enough to state that there was conclusive ’medical evidence that timber as a construction material has a positive influence on human health.’
Schools have been among the first to make use of this research and ensure that wood is used in the construction of their facilities.
Breakthroughs in wood
With the advent of technologies like CLT (cross-laminated timber) and LVL (laminated veneer lumber) there are now no obstacles to building schools of any size or shape from wood and most designers are keen to expose the CLT or other wooden structures on a building’s interior.
Additionally, building in wood is often faster and with less disruption to the local area. For school extensions, the fast contruction times means new spaces can be created during the summer break without disturbing the day-to-day running of a school during the term.
Stora Enso has experienced a sharp increase in interest and orders for wooden school projects. In Austria alone, Stora Enso has been providing the modern massive wooden solutions for more than 50 school projects. This same kind of growth is being replicated elsewhere also.
“The use of mass timber in the education sector is already strong in the UK with many great examples of completed CLT schools, and it is showing continual growth. There is currently a shortage of new secondary schools being built and the LGA (Local Government Association) has stated in forecasts based on (DofE) Department of Education projections, that by 2023-24 more than half of UK councils will be unable to meet demand for secondary school places. Mass timber is helping to address this with its ability to deliver high quality and robust educational buildings in a shorter timeframe when compared to traditional methods”, says Gareth Mason, UK Business Development Manager from Stora Enso.
Another example coming to fruition began in 2012 in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. The authorities sought to build five new schools in the region. Two of the schools went with a hybrid glulam and CLT portal frame delivered by Stora Enso.
Turriff Primary School was one of those schools. “From our point of view the exposed timber finish within the hall was very appealing and we are pleased with the warm and natural feel of the completed building which we believe is primarily due to the exposure of the CLT and glulam frame,” says Colin Robertson from design and architectural firm Halliday Fraser Munro.
“Also, CLT offered a faster, less labour intense construction which was a big factor for Aberdeenshire Council who had set a relatively tight programme for the works.”
It’s not just schools that are embracing the physical and psychological benefits of wood. The healthcare industry has been quick to use wood, based on what it calls ’evidence-based design.’ This is an investigation to see if the specific design of a building can actually result in a better outcome for the patients in that health facility or hospital.
The benefits are so clear and the evidence so compelling that health facilties are re-designing and ensuring a closer connection to the natural environment by introducing larger windows and allowing more natural light to enter the premises. Wood as a construction material has also become a factor in the design process.
So, regardless of the purpose of the building, it’s quite clear that the use of wood can have significant benefits on reducing stress benefiting both the learning and even healing environment.