Accelerating efficiency and circularity of construction

To maintain our planet and living conditions, we must make smarter use of the materials available and make do with less. The take-make-waste economy no longer works, instead circular approaches have to be developed and adopted. In the circular economy, raw materials are kept in the cycle for as long as possible. They are also kept as valuable as possible, waste and emissions are minimised, and nature’s capacity for renewal is ensured.

Unlike steel and concrete, wood is currently the only renewable building material. However, we need to re-engineer our familiar ways of thinking about wood and construction. Wood is not only an integral part of how our future is built (1), but it’s also important to use the latest technology and insight into how wood is used. Frankly said, the effective use of sustainably produced wood products may have an important role in what could save Earth from material scarcity.

Expert in wood construction, Matti Kuittinen says that one solution is to reuse materials and spaces and only after that build with sustainability in mind. That is where Nordic expertise and sustainably maintained forests and PEFC certified (PEFC/02-31-03) wooden Kerto® LVL products may be a big part of the solution, as it is material-efficient and is needed less than the other alternative products (2).

A study conducted (3) in the Nordic countries established five criteria for circular economy in the construction industry; reducing the use of resources, waste prevention, increasing recycling rates, use of biobased and renewable materials, and use of recyclable materials. Kerto LVL ticks boxes on all of the criteria. Not only are the materials sustainable, they also contribute to the future of materials as for every tree Metsä Wood uses, four new ones are planted.

Kerto LVL is laminated veneer lumber, a material-efficient and light product that offers many possibilities (4). The production is efficient, raw materials, energy and water are used as efficiently as possible and our mills aim to be self-sufficient in bioenergy and energy. Kerto LVL derives its high strength from its homogeneous bonded structure, which means it is needed less than other materials due to it having an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and working well in building processes and furthermore it enables material efficient solutions in building structures. As a thin material, Kerto LVL is also easier to transport, especially in urban areas where space is limited. In elements the Kerto LVL panel thickness is about –60 % compared to CLT.

Material efficient and reusable

As Kerto LVL is also an extremely durable material, the buildings last a long time.  This makes it possible to create long-term solutions and buildings that can also be moved and built up again in a new location like Little Finlandia in Helsinki, Finland (5). The Kerto LVL elements can be reused further for other purposes as the elements can be modified and reused, and the entire buildings can be moved to another location if necessary. Thanks to its modular design, Little Finlandia Hall can be relocated and it could continue serving as a temporary school or a daycare centre. Being built with circularity in mind both in terms of building materials and purposes of the building, allows the same amount of wood to serve more purposes, to truly offer more, and to be in use for longer periods of time. When planned ahead, using demountable construction components also enables the reuse of construction components and the reconstruction of buildings.

In element manufacturing, Kerto LVL is durable and it has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, less materials are needed. The elements are efficient and hollow, and produced in a controlled environment. In Kerto-Ripa elements the material used is about -50 % compared to solid CLT, and in optimally selected LVL beams only half of the materials compared to glulam.

With efficient use of wood, less amount of raw materials is required. Due to its stiffness, Kerto LVL is also a smart material to be used as beams, columns, or panels in load-bearing and non-load-bearing structures. It is an ideal material for roof, wall and floor applications and element production. For example, wooden floor elements based on the Kerto-Ripa® design system, have hollow structures meaning less material is needed and elements are lighter.

Compared to other material alternatives, wood materials are lightweight and can be transported in larger quantities at once and lifted with smaller cranes on construction sites. Products are cut-to-size, meaning little to no waste materials. This also streamlines processes at the customer’s end, as the need to further process the products is reduced.

On top of being reused, Kerto LVL products can also have other end-of-life options. For example, the product can be recycled to new building products or it can be used for substituting fossil fuels in energy production. To make LVL products even more efficient and sustainable, Metsä Wood is taking steps to develop bio-based adhesives for LVL products (6) the goal is to use completely fossil-free raw materials by 2030.

In the circular economy re-engineering how we think of materials and their effective use is crucial, as well as using the best practices we already have available. One of these is Kerto LVL laminated veneer lumber, which is proven to be sustainable, material-efficient and can be used as an alternative to many other materials used in the construction industry.


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    Sources used in article

    (2) IRP, Resource Efficiency and Climate Change, 2020, and UN Environment Emissions Gap Report 2019.)