Metsä Wood discusses the importance of keeping up with modern demands in modular offsite construction

The construction industry is undergoing a major transition, with construction moving from building sites to off-site manufacturing. Industrially standardised products increase the quality and efficiency of construction. The turnaround time on building sites is shortened and the amount of errors reduced, and there is hardly any wastage of materials.

The potential of wood in this process is undeniable and today, offsite timber construction has major aspirations. Prefabricated wood elements enable fast, efficient and environmentally sound design without reducing quality. Reports on the benefits of such a lean approach are compelling: In a study of companies that have applied lean construction methods, 84 per cent report higher quality in construction and 80 per cent experienced greater customer satisfaction1.

The report also highlights that almost 70 per cent of projects that used prefabricated elements had shorter schedules and 65 per cent had decreased budgets. Timber prefab construction also reduces other inconveniences such as the constant unloading of building materials, as well as the amount of on-site waste and the need to transport it.

Innovation in the house-building sector is key, and offsite timber construction could be key in achieving the high volume of housing required in the UK. Using new and innovative products like Metsä Wood’s Kerto®LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber), homes constructed offsite can be turned around in a matter of weeks. Modern engineered wood products can be used for a variety of housing projects ranging from terraced and detached homes through to apartment blocks several stories high.

Metsä Wood has been making long-term efforts to find permanent partners for industrial wood construction. The aim is to develop an ecosystem based on Metsä Wood’s Kerto LVL products.

“We are aiming to build a wood-based ecosystem in Europe – a network of specialists, each of whom focuses on their core business,” says Juha Kasslin, Vice President, Central Europe and Sales Development at Metsä Wood.

“Metsä Wood’s core business will be industrial-scale LVL manufacturing, and our partner network will carry out a lot of product development based on our products. This arrangement will benefit the growth of the entire ecosystem. Co-operation is an important step in expanding the wood construction sector – including urban construction, where the greatest potential is,” Kasslin adds.

Open Source Initiative
Metsä Wood has long-term supply and co-operation agreements with LVL element builders. The Finnish operators Lapwall and Sisco are good examples of such companies. Metsä Wood supplies fixed-length Kerto LVL products from which its partners manufacture roof, floor and wall elements, as well as complete modules.

Sisco’s rapid growth is proof that Kerto LVL can be used for practically all construction purposes. The increasing sales in prefabricated bathroom and kitchen modules and apartment modules indicate that wooden apartment buildings are the shape of things to come. Sisco’s ambitious goal is to increase the share of tall wooden buildings in Finland from three to four per cent to ten per cent within the next five years.

“A suitable base for each building project can be assembled from modules, and the architect can then create an impressive entity by adding attractive elements, colours, balconies, cornices, and so on,” says Lauri Halminen, CEO at Sisco. “A structural design approach enables reasonably-priced production, and industrial manufacturing ensures that the projects are carried out efficiently.”

Lapwall also believes in the logic and assembly chain approach that have been adopted from the automobile industry: in industrial wood construction, the work steps are clustered together and prepared in advance. All that remains to be done on the building site is to connect the parts.

“If each building is a prototype, then things become impossible,” says Jarmo Pekkarinen, CEO at Lapwall. “Our product development is based on the concept of having a range of models, with each building being assembled from prefabricated parts. This allows optimal cost, quality and speed. Thanks to this approach, we can promise developers and investors that a building project can be completed in as little as three weeks.”

Europe offers plentiful partnership opportunities for element construction. In France, Germany and Belgium, for example, Metsä Wood’s Kerto LVL Ripa floor and roof elements are prepared by partner companies.

Here in the UK, however, we seem to be slow on the uptake, although the tide is slowly turning with a greater need to provide affordable, adaptable and ecological homes.

Despite signs of progress, more needs to be done to help house builders, developers and planners better realise the potential that modern wood products can offer. That is one reason that Metsä Wood recently launched its Open Source Wood project, where architects, designers and engineers are invited to join forces to innovate and share information relating to construction based on wood elements.

As part of the Open Source initiative Metsä Wood has launched a programme of ‘Hackathons’, which bring people from across many disciplines together to problem solve and create an innovative wood element for building design during an intensive all day workshop.

Collaborative approach
The first Open Source Wood Hackathon took place in December in Nantes, France at the Ecole Supérieure du Bois and was held in partnership with the Institute of Wood Science and Technology. A further event was recently held in Finland in conjunction with the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In early 2018 London-based Zaha Hadid Architects, one of world’s most inventive architectural studios joined the Open Source Wood initiative. The collaboration includes a design proposal for a multi-storey residential structure using wood elements from the Open Source Wood web library as the primary building material.

It is hoped that the Open Source Wood project will help to highlight some of the innovative projects taking place across the globe and, through a collaborative approach, bring timber construction methods to the forefront of new house building in the UK.

1 McGraw Hill Construction, “Prefabrication and Modularization -Increasing Productivity in the Construction Industry,” McGraw Hill Construction, Bedford, 2011

Metsä Wood provides competitive and environmentally friendly wood products for construction, industrial customers and distributor partners. It manufactures products from northern wood, a sustainable raw material of premium quality. Its sales in 2017 were EUR 0.5 billion, and it employs about 1400 people.
For more information, please see
www.opensourcewood.com
www.metsawood.com/uk/