Wood – Sustainable option for constructing large public buildings

Public sauna Löyly, Hernesaari, Helsinki

Have you ever visited the Gösta Serlachius Museum in Mänttä? Taken a bath at the public sauna Löyly in Hernesaari, Helsinki? Or stopped to admire the facade of the public library Oodi in Helsinki? Large public buildings in wood make an impression not only by their beauty, but also by their ability to reduce carbon footprint of the construction.

Accessible, cheap, easy to work. Wood has stood the test of time in construction of detached family houses. Besides its traditional use, wood is becoming increasingly interesting in constructing sustainable and environmentally friendly public buildings.

However, the educatin in design and construction of massive wooden public buildings is lacking behind. The challenge was taken on by a group of higher education institutions in Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom, including the Häme University of applied Sciences (HAMK).

Art museum Gösta, Mänttä, Finland

Boosting higher education in construction of public buildings in wood

The project entitled “Sustainable Public Buildings Designed and Constructed in Wood”, or “Pub-Wood” in short, was launched in 2018 with co-funding from the ERASMUS+ programme.

Mr. Jari Komsi, Head of Degree Programme in Construction Technology, explains that the participation of HAMK School of Technology in the project is an extension of the long-standing cooperation with one of the project partners, Via University in Denmark.

The project is coordinated by the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Lithuania, and aims to produce a multi-disciplinary e-learning course on design, construction and management of wooden public buildings.

Mr Komsi’s team takes the lead in development of the handbook that comprises the key elements in wood construction from fire safety to sound transmission. HAMK will also host the project’s closing conference in May 2020.


Intensive training for students in wood construction

Half-way through the implementation, the project has already benefitted participating teachers and students. “It was great to see how our students made friends with their peers from other participating countries.”, sums up Mr Komsi the highlights of the two-week intensive training last May at the Coventry University, UK.

Lectures by participating teachers and joint project work were designed to enhance the students’ skills in team work, problem solving and innovative thinking. Around 30 students from five countries took part in the training, including five construction students from HAMK.

“In some countries studying construction can be more theoretical. Our students excel in hands-on assignments, in applying their knowledge in actual work. Bringing together students’ areas of expertise made them a very good team.”, notes Mr Komsi.

Intensive training in Coventry University, UK

Wood is high on the agenda in constructing public buildings

At the time when immediate action is required to reduce the carbon emissions in the construction industry, the project focusing on wood in public buildings, is on target.

In Finland, the governmental “The Wood Building Programme” promotes the use of wood in urban development and public buildings. As a carbon sink, wood beats many other construction materials in environmental friendliness when its entire life-cycle is taken into account.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has established the Nordic Wood in Construction Secretariat to support the use of wood in construction in the Nordic countries with an aim to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They have published 25 cases of Nordic good practice of wood in construction, mainly in public buildings.

Jaana Sipilä
Education Specialist
School of Technology
Häme University of Applied Sciences

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