Photo: Ola Roald Arkitektur and STREKEN AS
Hello Magnus! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about building schools with wood. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
I work as a COO for Woodcon A/S. That means I’m responsible for everything that has to do with contracts, logistics and things like that. I work in close collaboration with Stora Enso.
You could say that I follow a project all the way from the start to the finished building. And Woodcon have built lots of schools in wood - 150 000 m2 in total so far, since 2016.
Can you tell us more about the new Sykkylven skole?
Yes, Sykkylven is quite a big school and we will need about two years to build it. It will be finished in time for the start of school in the autumn of 2023. About 500 children will start studying there.
The assembly time of the building was nine weeks during the summer of 2022. Everything including the walls, the floor dividers and the stairs are built in wood. The only part of the school that is not entirely wood is the sports center.
Why is it built in wood?
Wood is beneficial in so many ways. First, we have the environmental aspect. This has high priority in Norway, as in many other countries. Using wood in buildings can drastically reduce emissions compared with concrete and steel. The material is lighter and easier to move and transport, it creates a better working environment during the building time, and the result is a really healthy indoor climate. People enjoy working and living in wooden buildings.
There are studies made (in England and Germany) that show that your pulse actually lowers when you enter a wooden building. In wooden schools, the students report feeling calmer and can concentrate better. We often hear both teachers and students say that the wood creates a cosy and warm environment for learning.
What’s the process like when Woodcon orders prefabricated components material for a new wooden school building?
Woodcon works closely together with architects, builders and advisors to create a building that is optimized and functional, according to the plans and vision that the architect and builder have for the project. When the geometry of the building is decided upon, Woodcon starts the process by dimensioning walls, columns and beams before the final IFC-model (3D model) is made.
This model includes all technical cut-outs, windows, doors and specifications for the wood that will be visible and exposed in the building. Then the finalized, processed 3D model is sent to Stora Enso for optimization. Afterwards, Woodcon takes control to confirm that everything is correct before production starts. Woodcon and Stora Enso cooperate in setting delivery plans and decide how different elements should be placed during transportation.
Sykkylven skole is made from prefabricated building elements. How is it to work in this way? Are there any specific challenges?
Well, one challenge is that as soon as you start assembling the building elements, you have a finished product on site. That means there is a risk that you might get marks or damage the wood during the building time. You need best practices to make everyone aware of this, because it’s different from other building methods. But we have been building like this for many years, and it’s not a problem at all. And there are so many benefits! The building elements are much easier to transport and they require fewer deliveries.
The material itself is light, so you need less concrete for the foundation of the building. And the building site is a much cleaner and calmer place than if you build with steel and concrete. All technical solutions are easier and tradespeople working on plumbing and air ventilation for example, appreciate that they can screw and fasten in wood wherever they are in the building.
When you start a project like this, who decides that wood is the preferred material?
Here in Norway it’s often the municipality that decides. If they have high environmental requirements, it has to be wood. Otherwise, it’s not possible to meet the building code standards. The client determines the choice of building material. Sometimes it can be the general contractor that suggests a wood product solution because it’s often more competitive than other alternatives. Typically the next step in the process is that an architect and my company, Woodcon, joins the project.
We try to be involved early on in the process, because we have so much knowledge about cost efficiency in these kinds of projects. We take the time to explain how to build smart with wood and avoid common pitfalls. We have lots of experience and all of us work together to make the project as economically efficient and optimized as possible.
Building in wood is a trend that is here to stay, isn’t it?
Yes, absolutely! It’s a trend in many countries, all over the world. Norway is at the forefront when it comes to using wood. The expertise around project planning and things like that might be even higher in Central Europe, in Germany and Austria.
In Scandinavia, we can see that Norway is number one when it comes to building in wood, then Sweden as number two, followed by Finland and Denmark. A difference between Norway and Sweden is that in Norway we build lots of preschools, schools and retirement homes in wood. Sweden builds many prestigious and innovative buildings.
So what do the people of Sykkylven think about their new school?
They are enthusiastic of course. It’s a big new school, built to be a really good place for children and young people and they appreciate that. And since we have built one big school, there are a few smaller schools around that will have to close. But I think that everyone will be very satisfied with this new modern school when it opens. There are so many benefits and building in wood is definitely here to stay.