A new school centre constructed in Kuhmo is the first one in Finland to be built from CLT and a local masterpiece – made from local and sustainable raw material.
Transporting the cross-laminated timber, or CLT elements to the construction site could not be much easier. Crosslam Kuhmo, the manufacturer of the elements, is only two and a half kilometres away from the new school centre of the tiny town in eastern Finland, boasting just 9,000 inhabitants.
The installation of the custom-made CLT elements began a month ago. All necessary openings, such as those for doors and windows, are made already at the factory.
Despite the long tradition of constructing with wood, CLT is a new material in Finland. According to Mr. Markku Pääkkönen, Project Manager for the Kuhmo school, there is still a lot to learn, and the advantages of having a local supplier are huge.
“The material can be delivered to the construction site precisely when needed and one load at a time. If the elements must be modified in any way, that can be done quickly and flexibly,” says Pääkkönen.
In addition, the short transport distances make the wooden building even more environmentally-friendly. The origin of the sustainable, PEFC-certified wood is not far away, either: the planks come from a local Kuhmo sawmilling company. Their wood is procured from the forests of Kuhmo and the surrounding regions of Kainuu and North Karelia.
Kainuu wood is strong
“The trees in Kainuu grow slowly enough to acquire strength, but fast enough that using them in the manufacturing is profitable,” says Mr. Timo Toivanen, Production Engineer at Crosslam.
CLT is known for its strength and rigidity. In addition, thanks to sanding, it has also a beautiful finish, making it ideal for both load-bearing structures and visible wall material.
Crosslam, established two years ago, is so far the only Finnish manufacturer of CLT, but it is gaining competitors within the next year.
Toivanen says the Kuhmo school is very important as a reference for Crosslam. He points out that the advantages of using custom-made CLT elements can be seen especially in large buildings as time saved at the construction site. In addition, CLT opens up new architectural possibilities.
“Windows, for example, can just as easily be round as rectangular,” says Toivanen.
A healthy building for children
The construction site is currently dominated by a huge tent. It is used to protect the three two-storey buildings of the new school, to ensure that the timber will remain dry during the whole construction process.
One reason for the need of the new school are the serious problems with indoor air quality noted in the existing school buildings of Kuhmo. According to Ms. Eila Valtanen, Town Manager of Kuhmo, wood was a natural choice for the new school.
The most important thing was to ensure a healthy environment for the children. In addition, Valtanen mentions that according to a study made in Germany, pupils in wooden schools experience less stress than others. One more reason for choosing wood as the material was the fact that Kuhmo derives its livelihood from the forest.
“Kuhmo is a true story of bioeconomy”, Valtanen says. “In Kuhmo, wood product R&D has been carried on for decades and many earn their living from the forest. Thanks to the new school, we will now have a local example of timber construction.”
The school will be completed within a year. There is room for 450 pupils between the ages of 6 to 15. With a floor space of 5,500 square metres, the building also houses a modern sports hall that can be used for other events as well, including concerts during the world-famous Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival.
The estimated cost of the construction project is about EUR 11.6 million. Thanks to its sustainable construction and energy efficiency, it receives funding from Municipality Finance as a green project.
The school project also benefits from the targeted fundraising by the Finnish Forest Foundation. The Foundation provides funding for projects which promote forest-related business activities and disseminates information about the sustainable use of forests.
The fundraised money is not to be used in construction, but to documentation, monitoring and communicating the construction process in order to distribute the experiences and know-how gained in the process to the sector.