Stora Enso is leading not only the future of construction but that of planet earth

In the earlier days of western industrialization, during the 19th century, when the widespread use of concrete had begun to grow across the US and northern Europe, we, as a species, must have thought that the future was finally in our hands. Little did we know that with the ever-growing concerns of how to tackle global warming and the irreversible damage we stand to inflict upon our planet, industries far and wide would be looking for solutions today.

Stora Enso is one of the companies that can provide genuine solutions to slow the damaging effects of climate change whilst maintaining our lives as close as possible to the ones we already know. Stora Enso is a leading renewable materials company and global provider of products such as packaging, biomaterials, paper and wooden constructions, as well as one of the largest private forest owners in the world.

Founded in 1998, after the merger of Swedish company, Stora Kopparbergs Bergslags Aktiebolag, and Finnish company, Enso Gutzeit, the business possesses a wealth of intergenerational knowledge, which it combines with modern technology and youthful ambition to deliver some of the world’s most ground-breaking solutions in terms of the future of construction. In recent years, its Wood Products Division (WPD) has been building momentum, and all it needs now is some effective education in the construction industry, so planet earth can start to reap the benefits.

Lars Völkel, Executive Vice President and Head of Wood Products, explains further: “As a company, our primary focus is to provide alternatives to fossil-based materials such as concrete, plastic and steel. We believe that everything made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow. Under my division, specifically, we adjust that scope to grow wood as a building material. The WPD’s competitors, such as saw milling- and timber companies, are not found in our industry. Our main competition actually resides within the concrete and steel manufacturing industries, but, fortunately, we have the upper hand.

“The construction materials that we rely on are far more sustainably sourced and far better for the environment. By replacing one cubic meter of concrete with wood, you can save a tonne of CO2, whilst substituting the same volume of steel with, again, wood, you’re looking at two and a half tonnes of CO2. These substantial savings in carbon emissions are the biggest competitive differentiator we have within our industry. Our comprehensive range of products for timber construction makes us one of the global industry leaders.

“Alongside the likes of cross laminated and solid structural timber, we also offer Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), all of which are complemented by our experiential expertise,” he continues. “We can recommend the best timber solutions for any specific building project, no matter from where in the world our customer hails. Our global positioning bolsters our ranking as an industry leader, given that our competitors only operate on regional, or even smaller, networks.”

In terms of the business’ production facilities, Stora Enso currently has 16 sawmills located across Europe. This gives a total timber capacity of almost six million cubic metres and over two million for its engineered product range. This includes four Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) mills, with a combined capacity of more than 410,000 cubic metres and a dedicated LVL site that can produce over 80,000 cubic metres. The total of which, makes Stora Enso the largest mass timber construction company in the world. These great strides have aided the business in developing its latest launch SylvaTM by Stora Enso.

Sylva™ by Stora Enso is a building kit in massive wood comprising pre-manufactured, custom-made applications delivered just-in-time to the building site. The solution enables faster construction, reduced costs, more efficient use of raw material and less emissions than concrete or steel. Essentially, a kit that provides everything a builder needs to create a modern, sustainable, low carbon wooden structure. As Lars details further: “By delivering prefabricated, easy-to-install components to the construction sites, we respond to the increasing trend of off-site construction while offering a solution to the industry’s labour shortage. SylvaTM by Stora Enso is a game-changer for making this happen, replacing concrete and steel with renewable wood to enable a circular, low-carbon construction process.

“There are many reasons why we still only see around 3 per cent of buildings in Europe utilising wood, especially in multi-story or commercial structures. Yes, building regulations are complex, but a key factor is the lack of experience among European traders. As one of the market leaders, we see it as our responsibility to share our knowledge within the construction industry and further support our peers with not only raw materials, but our digital tools as well. Working with wood is far simpler than many think, as we can deliver prefabricated, yet bespoke, walls, floors, roofs and stairs, as a kit, to the building site. We still have much work to do on the educational side, and we will not just sit and wait for others to do it.”

In furthering its mission, Stora Enso invested EUR 79 million in the build of the fourth of its CLT mills earlier this year. The new production line is situated in Ždírec in the Czech Republic, integrated with the existing sawmill, and will be launching its full-scale commercial production in early 2023. Once at full capacity, this location will be one of the world’s largest and most modern facilities, perfectly situated near some of the key markets in central Europe. Saki Boukas, Senior Vice President of Sourcing and Logistics, cites the on-time and on-budget completion of the state-of-the-art mill as a proud achievement for the company.

Elsewhere in the world, last year, Stora Enso undertook the project to construct one of the largest wooden buildings in Asia – the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. The 42,000 metres square structure spans six stories and incorporates the company’s cross-laminated components for floors and walls, and its glue laminated timbers for beams and columns. The construction challenge was almost matched by the necessary production and delivery of 7700 cubic metres of CLT, but Stora managed to achieve both.

“Besides the environmental gains of our employment of wood in the structure,” Lars elaborates, “our approach offered our partners a number of other improvements as well. The construction site’s surroundings enjoyed a vast reduction in noise, dust and vibrations and required far fewer personnel – a huge bonus to the construction industry in Singapore. With the project being a university building, future students will experience the proven benefits of studying in a biophilic environment. The organic eyeline provided by the wooden walls and beams naturally lowers your heart rate, which is conducive to boosting your concentration, learning and overall performance.”

Lars concludes: “We regrow more trees than we harvest in both Finland and Sweden and have set a target for 2050 to be completely regenerative in everything we do. Any company that no longer cares about sustainability or thinks it’s possible to continue by hiding behind empty promises, is wrong, in my opinion. Not just from a societal point-of-view or business model, but on a planetary stage. It’s no longer a question of if you want to be sustainable, but more so, how quickly can you be?”