Building with wood is smart, but old habits die hard
Constructing large buildings from wood has a whole range of advantages: it’s less of a burden on the environment, facilitates manufacturing and is healthier for construction workers. And yet, building with wood hasn’t quite experienced a major breakthrough yet. An interview study conducted as part of the Tillverka i Trä (Why Not Build With Wood) project revealed that the force of habit as well as a lack of understanding throughout the value chain often throw a spanner in the works.
For almost a century, concrete has been the go-to primary construction material for larger buildings. Modern wood-based frames have only been a viable alternative for about thirty years. To find out why wood frames aren’t used more frequently despite widespread agreement on wood’s huge potential, project manager Linnéa Johannsson at Johanneberg Science Park conducted in-depth interviews about wood-based construction with ten key players from the construction, sawmilling, architecture and community planning sectors, among others.
“The sheer power of habits was the most striking discovery. We like to do things the way we’re used to doing them because it feels comfortable and because we feel it’ll take less energy and effort,” says Linnéa Johannsson, who presented her report during a public webinar in December 2020.
Her study also shows there’s little to no knowledge of wood as a construction material among certain actors that are part of the construction process. This results in uncertainty and delays the implementation of certain measures, thereby unnecessarily complicating them. The construction process itself is also fragmented, and marred by a major lack of understanding for the conditions and restraints that affect different actors in the sector. Because of this, many focus mainly on optimising the work they themselves do – which not infrequently increases the costs and workload borne by other actors instead.
— Transfers of knowledge mainly take place within individual organisations; they don’t routinely occur between different companies, even when companies have worked on one and the same project. Many of those I interviewed agreed a lot could be done in that regard to improve construction processes and the sector as a whole, says Linnéa Johansson.
By highlighting the obstacles that prevent wood from being used as a construction material on a large scale, Johannsson and the Tillverka i Trä project hope to enable an alternative future. There’s significant potential for pioneers to take the lead on this and set an example.
— The sector is ever-changing, and many are keen to innovate. While the challenge may seem daunting, it’s simultaneously a wonderful opportunity to develop new and improved processes.
Tillverka i Trä
The project Tillverka i Trä is a joint initiative by the wood-construction sector and the wood-based interior design industry. Its goal is to promote an increased use of wood, facilitate companies’ development of a more design-oriented and industrialised production based on wood, and create new business opportunities around waste streams and by-products.
Tillverka i Trä is a partnership between Innovatum Science Park, Stiftelsen Steneby, Göteborgs Universitet, Fyrbodals kommunalförbund, Högskolan Väst och Johanneberg Science Park.It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Region Västra Götaland.