Studying the benefits of wood construction in a Living Lab environment at Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station

Metsä Fibre’s Vilppula sawmill supplied raw material for the new campus, which is built from CLT elements. Sensors and technical systems embedded in the campus buildings will now study factors that impact on living comfort.
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  • 2023, Sustainability

The University of Helsinki’s new campus at Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station has been completed. The wood-framed campus, covering 1,400 square metres, includes a main building and several smaller buildings linked to it. The campus has been constructed entirely from Finnish cross-laminated timber (CLT). Certified, extra-dry sawn timber from Metsä Fibre’s Vilppula sawmill was used as a raw material.

“We wanted the new facilities to be constructed in accordance with the principles of sustainability, and material plays a key role in this. The facilities must last for at least 150 years,” says Dean Ritva Toivonen, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry from the University of Helsinki.

Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station is known worldwide for its SMEAR II station, which measures greenhouse gas fluxes between the atmosphere and the forest. The new campus will broaden the research field to encompass the entire value chain of Nordic wood from the forest to wooden buildings.

Sensors provide data on living comfort

Research related to wood construction will be carried out in the campus’s main building, which serves as a Living Lab environment. Sensors and technical systems embedded in the building will collect data on the various ways in which a wood-framed structure can affect the wellbeing of residents, the living comfort they experience, and so on.

“Studies of living comfort indicate that good indoor air quality is one of the aspects that people appreciate in wood-framed buildings. However, we do not yet know all the factors that contribute to this,” says Toivonen.

Using the sensors and technical systems in the Living Lab environment, ventilation, lighting, temperature, and humidity can now, for the first time, be regulated under test conditions. This will help researchers determine how different factors influence feelings of wellbeing and alertness.

Aiming for a research centre encompassing the entire forest value chain

Hyytiälä campus is part of a worldwide network of wooden Living Labs, which includes Peavy Hall teaching and laboratory facilities in the US state of Oregon, and the office and laboratory facilities of the InnoRenew Centre of Excellence in Slovenia. Each teaching laboratory measures some of the same variables to produce long time series and increase our understanding of the characteristics, changes and sustainability of CLT buildings in different climates. “We hope to develop Hyytiälä into a research and innovation centre covering the entire forest value chain, and which companies can also use for their testing and research,” says Toivonen.

She points out that the research data obtained from the Living Lab is unique as well as socially significant.

“It makes a big difference if the buildings we construct promote human wellbeing and alertness.”

This article was originally published in Timber Magazine issue 2023.

Did you know?

More than 600 cubic metres of wood have been used for the new campus buildings at Hyytiälä. Assuming that one cubic metre of wood stores 0.75 tonnes of carbon dioxide, this volume of wood stores approximately 450 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of around 250 internal combustion engine cars, each driven 20,000 kilometres.

What is a Living Lab?

Living Labs are user-centred open innovation ecosystems where research and innovation are conducted in real-life environments.