Wood works wonders in our built environments


Researchers at Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are exploring the applications of wood and wood-based materials that can be used in the built environment.


In Finland, wood accounts for about one-fifth of public buildings like schools and day-care centres, but despite wood’s strength and durability, only five percent of multi-storey buildings are made from wood in the country. In its demanding climate objectives, the Finnish government wants to double the volume of wood construction over the next four years.


In future, Aalto University Professor of Wood Architecture Pekka Heikkinen encourages us to “exploit wood’s good, unique properties”, for example, wood binds moisture and its surface temperature is high, reducing the need for ventilation and heating in wooden structures. Further, growing wood binds atmospheric carbon dioxide, which can be stored in wood-based structures for decades, even centuries. Read about the ongoing Wood Wonders Exhibition at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, part of 2020 Helsinki Design Week.


In FinnCERES, novel fractions from wood are utilized to create materials for built environments. Glossy paint colours usually made with toxic pigments, plastic-based materials, or metal membranes can be substituted with colours made with nanocellulose. These colours contain no pigments at all, instead, they are created by light-reflecting nanostructures, as in peacock feathers or butterfly wings. In 2019, this project was highlighted at Dutch Design Week and is being exhibited at the 2020 Helsinki Design Week this September.


Lignin, a by-product of pulp and paper industry, can potentially be used to replace fossil materials and harmful chemicals. For example, FinnCERES researchers are developing it into a substitute for formaldehyde-phenolic resin glues, usually used when making plywood, construction panels, and laminated products. In addition, special direction-dependent adhesive properties have been recently achieved by using nanocellulose-based glues. See Aalto.fi for details of the “eco” super glue.


For all of the above projects, browse Aalto University Magazine (2020, Issue 26) for more details. 


Photo: Wood Wonders exhibition at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Photo by Anne Kinnunen/Aalto University

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