Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 14.02.2006

A study on the effects of constructing a wooden-frame office building
The Metla House used as reference for wooden-frame multi-storey buildings

The Metla House is an efficient and impressive example of the engineering and planning, pre-fabricated elements and construction work used in Finnish wooden-frame house construction. The wooden column-beam-slab system is well suited for use in multi-storey buildings. The effects of building the Metla House were studied and the economic and ecological results of the studies indicate that research and development to enhance the competitive edge of wooden-frame construction must be continued.

The Metla House was a large construction project, so it was possible to study regional economic and environmental effects as well as the state of knowledge on wooden-frame construction. Construction work on the Metla House was compared with that of a corresponding, fictitious building made of concrete.

According to researcher Eero Vatanen, the employment effect of the Metla House construction counted for 110 person years. 65 person years were spent on the actual construction site and the remaining 45 person years were spent on manufacture, trade and transportation of prefabricated elements. The employment effect of the corresponding concrete construction house was calculated as 101 person years, of which 59 were spent on the construction site.

Multiplier effects did not benefit North Karelia as much other regions in Finland. This is explained by the regional concentration of the pre-fabricated elements manufacture and the resultant lively trade in construction products between different regions. Besides, it would have been impossible to acquire all wooden components and materials from the local area. For example, there is no local manufacturer in North Karelia for the laminated timber used as the frame material.

The energy consumption and environmental load of the manufacture and transportation of the wooden frame and the roof and cover elements used in the Metla House were smaller than in the concrete-frame building used as reference. The share of renewable energy in the wooden-frame construction was 35 percent while for the concrete-frame construction it was 7 percent. Carbon dioxide and methane emissions in the wooden building were only 40% and 50%, respectively, compared to the building option using concrete. Leading Researcher Tarja Häkkinen was responsible for the environmental part of the study.

The Metla House has a wooden-frame and intermediate floor constructions, both developed cooperatively by the project designers and the North-Karelian Network Centre of Expertise for Wood Products. The wooden column-beam-slab system is stiffened and anchored to the lift and staircase towers with a wood-concrete composite bridge. The wooden hollow-core slab was a new product in Finland, assembled locally in North Karelia from wooden parts transported from south-eastern Finland. The objective of the enterprises in the manufacturing chain was to win markets for the laminate slab.

According to Professor Matti Kairi, representing the Helsinki University of Technology, it is extremely challenging to develop a novel product to be a winner both in the sense of technical function and commercial sales. It is typically Finnish to be able to achieve competitive manufacturing and technical performance of a product. The big problem is to develop the business. When a product is launched on the market, the manufacturer must be careful not to create a “death trap”. An even flow of constant new orders must be received to ensure a steady cash flow to guarantee development of the operations.

The Metla-House - the wooden office building built for the Forest Research Institute, has now been in use for a year and a half. The three-storey building provides some 200 employees with a cosy, welcoming, functional and inspiring work environment that is full of light. The feedback received from the users’ of the wooden-frame construction have been entirely positive, says Jari Parviainen, Director of the Joensuu unit of Metla.

Publication: Vatanen, E. 2005. Puurunkoisen toimistotalon rakentamisen vaikutukset aluetalouteen, rakentamisen osaamiseen ja ympäristöön – Joensuun Metla-talo (The effects of a wooden-frame office building on regional economy, construction know-how and environment - the Metla House, Joensuu). Finnish Forest Research Institute Research Papers No. 949, 45 p. + Appendices. (in Finnish)

Wooden raw materials used as components in the Metla House, with areas or origin

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