8 incredible buildings that prove wood is good

You don’t have to be an architect or a tree-hugger to be dazzled by this new generation of wooden buildings.

8 incredible buildings that prove wood is good
The Library at the Dock Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Stora Enso

When people think of the Nordics, they often think of landscapes covered by vast green forests punctuated by compact urban innovation hubs. And a sense of responsibility about how to use resources sustainably.

So it should come as no surprise that the region’s unique marriage of nature and innovation is redefining the way buildings are conceived and built – with the aim of making construction, buildings, and even entire cities greener and more sustainable.

“We’re bringing the forest into the city,” says Cathrine Wallenius of the renewable materials company Stora Enso.

How? By developing new wood-based construction materials that have the potential to replace the steel and concrete commonly used today.

As a result, wood is no longer just the preferred building material for single-family homes and quaint country cottages; it’s also gaining in popularity when it comes to the construction of apartment buildings, shopping malls, schools, stadiums, and high-rises– even whole cities.

And the results can be incredible. See for yourself:

Campus building OMICRON electronics GmbH Klaus, Austria


Trummens Strand residential project, Växjö, Sweden

But what’s almost more impressive is how using wood makes buildings and cities more sustainable. Due to the fact that wood harvested from sustainably managed forests stores carbon absorbed from the atmosphere, using more wood in more buildings has the potential to transform cities into huge carbon stocks.

That keeps more carbon out of the atmosphere longer, which helps combat climate change.

“Our main goal is to increase the use of wood and replace as much fossil-based material as possible with wood,” says Wallenius.

And while this transformation to more wooden buildings is still in its early stages, the results so far are pretty amazing:

Apartment building Les Ardennes Street, Paris, France

Student houses Trondheim, Norway

Stora Enso is a market leader in spearheading the construction industry’s pivot toward the wider use of renewable, wood-based materials.

For starters, the company is among the largest producers of cross-laminated timber (CLT) – which acts like the concrete in traditional construction – and laminated-veneer-lumber (LVL) – which serves the same function as steel.

Stora Enso is also on the cutting edge of developing other wood-based biomaterials that can replace glues, laminates, and even plastic-like materials that are currently dependent on fossil-based materials.

Check out the video below to see exactly how much a tree can do:

“We see ourselves as leading a paradigm shift in wood. We’re starting with residential, but there are other building types to come such as: schools, office buildings, and more,” Wallenius explains.

And to help speed up the transition, Stora Enso has pioneered an entirely new approach to planning and construction that makes building with wood as easy as building with Lego.

Launched in 2016, Building Systems by Stora Enso offers planners, architects, and builders detailed guidelines about how to build wooden residential buildings.

“We’re providing instructions for how to build multi-storey residential buildings using wood,” explains Wallenius. “We show you how to plan, draw, produce, and maintain wooden buildings of up to 12 storeys – it’s like a how-to manual.”

Crome Court – University of East Anglia Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom

Lintuviita Seinäjoki, Finland

The system reduces planning and construction times, making it easier for builders to conceive and execute wooden building projects – and get the work completed faster.

“This simplifies the process of building with wood by giving architects, engineers, construction companies, investors, and city planners the guidance they need,” Wallenius adds.

So far, Building Systems by Stora Enso has been launched in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom, realising projects such as the following in the UK and France:

Ongoing Building Systems project in Basildon, UK (Photo: Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects)

Ongoing Building Systems project in Tremblay-en-France, France (Photo: Pablo Katz Architecture)

Stora Enso isn’t alone in promoting the advantages of wooden buildings. In fact, the company hopes more and more stakeholders get involved.

“The wood industry needs to cooperate in order to function and expand. We need to have a wider transfer of knowledge and expertise in addition to just the products,” says Wallenius

“We also need to reach out to city planners, architects, engineers – that’s where the decisions are made – to make sure they are aware of the possibilities of wood construction and have the arguments for why building in wood is better than using other building materials.”

So you can expect wooden buildings to be popping up in more cities and towns in the years ahead as Stora Enso’s innovations help more people realize that “wood is good” – for not only builders and homeowners – but also for the environment.

This article was produced by The Local's Client Studio and sponsored by Stora Enso


Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

Sweden's government has proposed a new law which will remove local municipalities' power to block wind parks in the final stages of the planning process, as part of a four-point plan to speed up the expansion of wind power.

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

“We are doing this to meet the increased need for electricity which is going to come as a result of our green industrial revolution,” Strandhäll said at a press conference. 

“It is important to strengthen Sweden by rapidly breaking our dependence on fossil fuels, building out our energy production and restructuring our industry. The Swedish people should not be dependent on countries like Russia to drive their cars or warm their homes.”

“We are going to make sure that municipalities who say “yes” to wind power get increased benefits,” she added in a press statement. “In addition, we are going to increase the speed with which wind power is built far offshore, which can generally neither be seen or heard from land.” 

While municipalities will retain a veto over wind power projects on their territory under the proposed new law, they will have to take their decision earlier in the planning process to prevent wind power developers wasting time and effort obtaining approvals only for the local government to block projects at the final stags. 

“For the local area, it’s mostly about making sure that those who feel that new wind parks noticeably affect their living environment also feel that they see positive impacts on their surroundings as a result of their establishment,” Strandhäll said.  “That might be a new sports field, an improved community hall, or other measures that might make live easier and better in places where wind power is established.” 

According to a report from the Swedish Energy Agency, about half of the wind projects planned since 2014 have managed to get approval. But in recent years opposition has been growing, with the opposition Moderate, Swedish Democrats, and Christian Democrat parties increasingly opposing projects at a municipal level. 

Municipalities frequently block wind park projects right at the end of the planning process following grassroots local campaigns. 

The government a month ago sent a committee report, or remiss, to the Council on Legislation, asking them to develop a law which will limit municipal vetoes to the early stages of the planning process. 

At the same time, the government is launching two inquiries. 

The first will look into what incentives could be given to municipalities to encourage them to allow wind farms on their land, which will deliver its recommendations at the end of March next year. In March, Strandhäll said that municipalities which approve wind farm projects should be given economic incentives to encourage them to accept projects on their land. 

The second will look into how to give the government more power over the approvals process for wind projects under Sweden’s environmental code. This will deliver its recommendations at the end of June next year.