We need to use more wood in construction in order to achieve the climate goals, but at the same time use as little materials as possible.

“We want to build in an environmentally-friendly way, be climate-smart and sustainable, and this means we must not over-consume our natural resources”, says Johan Åhlén, general manager at the world's oldest glulam factory, Moelven Töreboda in Sweden.

The factory constructs and manufactures load-bearing wooden structures that can be used in, for example, sports halls, bridges, apartments and high-rise buildings. When we build using wood, we move the carbon stock from the forest into the building, which continues to store the carbon dioxide for as long as it stands.

“Slender, well thought through structures, and other technical solutions, enable us to use as little materials as possible and thereby avoid wasting natural resources,” says Åhlén.

The Mjøsa Tower in Ringsaker is an example of this. The world's tallest wooden building consists of glulam columns, beams and diagonals, which provide a strong and light main framework. The lift shaft is made of solid wood, while the building’s top seven floors are made of concrete to provide weight and reduce movement caused by strong winds. Choosing the right material in the right place makes the building more resource-efficient.

The Mjøsa Tower

Wooden glulam structures being hoisted into place in the Mjøsa Tower. Photo: Jens Haugen/Anti

Constructing more in wood will allow us to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that occur when we use non-renewable materials. However, perhaps the greatest impact is achieved by focusing on what produces the best end result.

“We would love to use wood everywhere, but we aren’t afraid to combine it with steel and concrete if this produces the best result,” says Åhlén.

Another example of this kind of combination is Ulls Hus, the new main building of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, which mostly contains wood, but also some steel and concrete. Moelven believes that the most important thing is not to use more resources than necessary.

“This is the mindset we need, both privately and professionally, when we’re choosing what to eat, when and where to go on holiday and how to build using wood,” says Åhlén. 

The new main building of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Ulls Hus, combines both wood, steel and concrete. Photo: Moelven