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BLOG: Mikko Viljakainen on Finnish wood innovation

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by JOC Digital Media

Mikko Viljakainen, managing director of Finnish Wood Council, gave a speech titled The Renaissance in Finnish Industrialized Timber Construction Method at the International Wood Symposium held January 29 in downtown Vancouver.
BLOG: Mikko Viljakainen on Finnish wood innovation

There has been a tremendous development towards better off site and on-site fabrication technologies, Viljakainen said. He talked about three technologies being introduced in Finland.

He said it took a long time to understand what was needed to adapt to wood structures for customer demand. Clients want a whole building, so one must be able to deliver an entire building. Builders must take care of the services of the building if they want to be competitive.

"It is tricky to provide a new product into the market," he said.

There are many challenges. There are very strict regulations. Also, often building in urban areas is necessary as rural projects don't make much money. Rural developments have a very low tech image and involve no research and development. "They believe in the old ways," he said.

"Need for a change provides opportunities," he added.

The biggest potential for wood is where the decisions are made professionally and where buildings are big. This means multi-unit housing

Could be a way to boost economy, to use sprawling forests for wood building. In 2009 set out to transform the industry to blaze a trail for wood. This included changing building regulations.

Viljakainen said they've been able to change the fire code and building up to eight storeys, with townhouses up to four storeys.

It took a lot of time to understand what kind of product would work on the market.

"We have the solutions available, and we know how to make good wood buildings," he said.

His task was to provide these solutions to the market. Currently, they have design tools, instructions, manuals and information about products, and designers can even download BIM models to use.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for designers to use wood," he said.

If it's not easy to find the solutions, they will revert back to old methods.

There are three new technologies in Finland Viljakainen is excited about.

The first is hybrid technology that includes concrete and wood. It was developed by a construction company that built with concrete, and found it to be far faster than traditional methods because one can overlap construction phases using tents. They were able to nearly cut construction time in half.

The second is post and beam technology.

"The idea is to build the roof up very rapidly," he said.

The roof can be on top of the building in a matter of days. The structure is then weather protected and other work can be done. This combats moisture problems that are an issue for Finnish builders.

For now, the post and beam technology is only wanted in office buildings and not in residential construction, but Viljakainen hopes that will change.

The third technology is volumetric elements. It is the most popular issue in the region he said. Volumetric elements are 95 per cent complete after leaving factory. Finnish contractors don't support it because it leaves them with little work to do.

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