Timber – the building material of the future

High-rise construction with timber is a growing market and demand is driven by both economics and sustainability. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a flexible material, and highly competitive in major cities. Compared with other materials, CLT is transport-efficient, light and maintains high environmental integrity. These benefits are reflected not only in housing production, but also in the construction of sports facilities, warehouses, offices and schools. The Climate Summit in Paris recommended timber as a building material from a life-cycle perspective. Climate-change studies show that timber construction reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared with concrete structures.

Many property developers see timber construction as an exciting trend. So much seems to indicate that timber is the building material of the future. To be part of and drive the development of timber-based solutions for the construction industry, Södra is now investing in its first CLT facility with production start-up scheduled for summer 2019. The location at Värö has been strategically chosen for its proximity to several Nordic high-growth regions, and the ease of shipping to both the UK and other international destinations. The facility will be co-located with Södra’s pulp mill and sawmill, with access to green electricity and existing infrastructure.

Long-lasting, durable, flexible – CLT solid-timber system

Cross-laminated timber will broaden Södra’s offering with pre-fabricated panels in a range of grades and dimensions. The panels are sawn with CNC machines and millimetre precision, and delivered – in close dialogue with contractors – directly to the construction site for immediate installation. Södra’s CLT is made from three to seven construction-grade layers (lamellas) of spruce and pine. The size of each panel is up to 3 metres high and 12 metres long. In addition to higher dimensional precision, CLT has a considerably lower carbon footprint than equivalent concrete panels, and also stores carbon in the structure, which adds to the environmental virtues of CLT. At only one-fifth the weight of concrete, the amount of transport to the construction site is significantly reduced, which also creates conditions for shorter construction times.

The ability of timber to absorb or release moisture creates a balanced living environment, and CLT buildings can offer a more even indoor climate. The liveable area is also larger because the wall panels are not as thick as concrete. The fact that the timber is FSC-labelled, from well-managed family-owned forests in southern Sweden, is another positive aspect. With CLT, we can build multi-storey structures sustainably and efficiently, densify competitively in major cities, and streamline property construction to meet the ever-growing need for housing in Europe.

With roots in family forestry

Forest owners have been cooperating through Södra since 1938. When a family has been managing a forest for several generations, memories are often attached to every single tree.

It takes about 80 years before a tree is ready for harvest. Because of this long-term perspective, it is only natural that forest owners think and plan for the decades ahead. Sometimes for centuries.

They are motivated by a commitment to care for forests responsibly. To live off something provided by nature for a long time requires consideration for ecosystems and biodiversity. Most of Södra’s members hold both PEFC and FSC certification for their forests.

Södra has a total membership of 51,000 private forest owners, and is now an internationally successful industrial group. Every year, members deliver 9-10 million m³ of wood to Södra’s mills – wood that is traceable from planting to processing.

This sustainability perspective follows the raw material along the entire value chain. All of our forest machines and transport vehicles run on fossil-free fuel. The geographic proximity, with members’ forests and mills in the same part of the country, also shortens transport distances. Södra’s production processes also reflect major considerations for natural resources.

TIMBER IS SUSTAINABLE – IN SO MANY WAYS

But the most exciting thing about timber must be the actual material. Unlike most other materials, timber is 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable. Timber is an important tool in the transition to a bio-based economy, and a sound choice for housing because it helps to create a healthy indoor climate. The more timber in a house, the better the indoor climate. Especially when the trees growing in our forests also absorb CO₂ from the atmosphere. Timber continues to store CO₂ for as long as it exists, which helps to reduce global warming. We plant at least three new trees for every tree that we harvest, so that we can continue to produce sustainable products for quality and environmentally aware people.

Södra utilises every part of a forest product. It becomes sawn timber, paper pulp or woodchips for heating and energy. Now that we are offering CLT, we believe we can also make a difference in this area. In our research and development, we are investing major resources in bringing new and innovative products to market. CLT is the next step along that path.