Stora Enso – We build our cities with concrete. How do you switch to wood


More than half of the world’s population lives in cities and by 2050 the UN expects that figure to rise to 68%. Most city planners are heavily involved in new construction and are under increasing pressure to build greener, cheaper and faster than ever before. Advances in engineered wood products make this possible.

How Trondheim in Norway unlocked the key to make the transition.

A significant challenge facing urban planners is that they see the multiple benefits of wood construction, but don’t know how to make the transition. Steel and concrete still represent 80% of the raw materials used in construction today.

“Urban planners need support, data and education to make the transition to wood construction,” says Sabina Leopa, deputy director of Urbasofia, an urban and regional planning company that supports several EU urban development projects.

The city of Trondheim in northern Norway has done it right. Dotted with colorful wooden buildings, the city has a 200-year-old history of wooden construction, but in recent years it has taken the initiative to take sustainable construction to new heights with wooden solutions.

Trondheim city planners were happy to share the secret to their enduring success and gave us their six-pillar approach for cities that want to follow in their low-carbon footsteps:

1. Inspire and educate

2. Build in wood

3. Create policies and incentives

4. Set climate goals

5. Use and create knowledge banks

6. Collaborate

1. Inspire and educate

The boom in timber construction projects in Trondheim dates back to 2006, when they launched a 4-year project, the Trebyen/WoodTown initiative, to promote timber construction projects. Like many cities, they already had some successful wood projects to learn from. Borkeplassen, a groundbreaking 9,000m² project in 2003, raised awareness of what could be done with modern timber construction and showcased the environmental, technological and welfare benefits of working with wood.

“It was easier for the city to accept the construction of several wooden public facilities after the Trebyen initiative,” explained Torn Myrvold, site manager at the municipality of Trondheim. This phase gave us a “knowledge base and garnered support early on, which paved the way for accelerating change. [to wood construction].’


Wood increases welfare rates by 13% and productivity by 8%. Learn more on the #WoodHouse Effect page.

2. Start building your city’s public buildings with wood

The public sector is the construction industry’s largest customer. This means that municipal governments can incentivize industry as a whole to become more sustainable if they prioritize wood as a building material. When cities build schools, social housing, etc. with renewable energy, they can experience the benefits of wood construction and learn first-hand experience of how to build with a new material.

Since the beginning of the Trebyen initiative, the city has built several schools and kindergartens, the Norwegian Institute of Natural Research, as well as Moholt 50 | 50, a series of high-rise buildings for student accommodation which includes other facilities such as a library, medical center and fitness center. Very quickly, residents were able to experience the well-being benefits of living and working in wooden structures. At the same time, construction companies gained valuable insights from working with new materials and found they liked it much more.

3. Create policies and incentives

Regulations and incentives to build zero emissions are helping to limit the use of steel and concrete, the most common building materials, which generate more than 8% of global CO2 emissions. Cities can change building codes to make wood construction easier. In 2016, Trondheim agreed on an environmental strategy for building which positions it as a city at the forefront of wood innovation in building projects. Today, when Trondheim offers public tenders for municipal projects, they demand a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and highlight the use of wood as a viable way to meet these demands.

4. Set climate goals

Climate initiatives are a catalyst for building more sustainably in a city and provide benchmarks to assess progress. For example, Trondheim is currently aiming to meet the climate goals of the United Nations Paris Agreement and has firmly put wood on the political agenda for a high volume of wood projects. Their overall goal is to reduce emissions by 80% by 2030 from 2009 figures, and part of that includes zero-emission buildings and construction sites by the same year.

5. Use and create knowledge banks

A well-developed knowledge base for wood construction is a great way to ease the transition. “We have been using wood in buildings in Trondheim for decades,” says Anna Castanheira, architect of the Trebyen initiative. “We also have a technical university with a lot of research on the use of wood.” One in seven Trondheimers works in the knowledge and innovation sector, which has a strong focus on green technologies. So there is a vast knowledge base to draw on. Few cities are so fortunate, but a huge difference can be made if a city centralizes regional standards in a way that entrepreneurs can access. Builders should know the standards required for insulation, wind barriers, etc. Getting this information easily helps builders do their job. Cities can play a critical role in creating these knowledge hubs and sustaining them as standards are updated.

6. Collaborate

Castanheira and Myvold’s advice to cities interested in reducing their emissions and switching to renewable materials is to connect with experts in the field. In Trondheim, a specific policy encourages collaboration between stakeholders, creating knowledge sharing and high competence in this area. The result is that the region is now home to a hub of talent in the field of modern wood construction.

Local collaborations can help solve practical, region-specific problems and deal with the local climate and wood supply. For example, contractors might worry about how “rain, water, and snow will affect them when building with wood,” says Myrvold. “It’s easy for builders not to want to work with a product if they think it’s going to be a significant issue and in these expert collaborations they can get insights into how wood products are dried and sealed. to protect against the elements. A lumber salesman will tell them that, but they’re more likely to trust another contractor who has first-hand experience and has done a project in their area tackling that specific issue in their area.

In summary, it has never been more critical and more possible for our cities to build sustainably. Advances in wood products and Trondheim’s leadership are living proof that we can do it and that it is worth building with wood. Making the transition is not as simple as building a wooden structure. Municipal governments play a central role and can start with public education campaigns, fine-tune policies, foster knowledge hubs, join climate initiatives and collaborate to bring about change.

Part of the global bioeconomy, Stora Enso is a leading supplier of renewable products in packaging, biomaterials, wood construction and paper, and one of the largest private forest owners in the world. We believe that anything made from fossil materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow. Stora Enso has approximately 22,000 employees and our sales in 2021 were €10.2 billion. Stora Enso shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy (STEAV, STERV) and Nasdaq Stockholm AB (STE A, STE R). In addition, the shares are traded on the UNITED STATES as ADR (SEOAY).


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