Wood construction is a megatrend. The wooden apartment building project Kuusikko in Tampere, Finland – an impressive project even on a European scale – is one of the outcomes of the boom. VVR Wood Oy handles the project's wood element production. They use the Archicad add-on ArchiFrame for designing.
In October, I discussed the possibilities and challenges of wood construction at VVR Wood's prefabrication factory in Heinola with Ville Valve, the Production Director of the company.
What would you like to tell us about VVR Wood? "VVR Wood Oy is a growing company focusing on wood construction. We design, manufacture, and install prefabricated wooden buildings – mainly wooden apartment buildings and larger wooden buildings. Our factory in Heinola employs about 30 people, and wooden elements are manufactured using a very precise process. Our three production lines can produce a block of flats in a week. We strive to make our work reproducible but also flexible."
How would you describe the Kuusikko project? "Kuusikko in Tampere's Vuores is by far the largest wooden apartment building project in Finland. The end customers are A-Kruunu Oy and TA-asumisoikeus Oy, and the developer and contractor is Arkta Rakennus Oy. There will be a total of 14,373 square meters of floor space and 195 apartments. Site planning is well underway, and production began in late summer 2020. The site is the largest single project in VVR Wood's history, and deliveries will continue far into 2021. VVR Wood is responsible for the total delivery of the site's wooden elements up to the installation. The elements are manufactured at VVR Wood's Heinola factory."
Why have you chosen wood as a building material? "Responsibility and environmental friendliness are enormous construction trends, and the low carbon footprint of wood speaks for itself. Wood has unlimited potential, for example, in things like completely plastic-free construction. The productivity and efficiency of wood element manufacturing are also crucial for us. Wood is a good, holistic building material, and we strive to get the most out of it by streamlining the process. Wood allows us to do more in factory conditions compared to other building materials. The assembly in factory conditions is safer and of higher quality. Wood supports productivity and responsible construction. As a product part supplier, we want to make wood construction as easy as possible for our customers."
Can you tell us about the challenges of element production? "Our challenge is to be both flexible and fast – and still respond to price competition. High degree of prefabrication requires careful planning. For example, an architectural model can have 200 separate parts, but our production model can easily contain 2,000 or even up to 20,000 parts. Our goal is to ensure that information flows efficiently throughout the whole process: the modeling, the manufacturing, and the construction phase."
Can you tell us about the role of ArchiFrame? "ArchiFrame is a crucial part of our production process. All finished elements go through our design team, and they use ArchiFrame. ArchiFrame is the tool we use to proceed from an architectural model to an implementation model. Everything we produce in Heinola is made with ArchiFrame. For example, there can be a hundred components in one wall, and ArchiFrame has processed all of them. Especially in the preparation phase and in automation, ArchiFrame is invaluable."
What are the advantages of ArchiFrame? "With ArchiFrame, we can build and adjust element types ourselves. We can deliver custom solutions flexibly and competitively. ArchiFrame also helps in the prefabrication. We get CNC files for cutting and marking components. The markings control the assembly of the elements, too. Our competitiveness does not come from the fact that something is done fast in the assembly, but from the fact that the entire production chain is efficient."
What is the role of information management in construction? "There is still huge potential in developing information technology and information management in the construction sector. Not all the benefits of existing tools have yet been realized. Software like ArchiFrame does us a part of the routine design work, allowing us to focus on those areas where we can deliver significant benefits to the customer. We are a project supplier, and we must respond flexibly to the customer's needs. ArchiFrame's open environment enables the design of unique and project-changing structures. In seven years, we have not done two completely similar projects. That is why the ability to customize is so important to us."
Can you prescribe the special features of wood construction? "The factory preproduction as far as possible is the key. The whole project needs to be optimized, not just one structural component or the project's implementation phase. As a product supplier, we can help the customer manage the whole thing. Many tasks are repeated thousands of times during one construction project, so we invest in reproducibility and quality control."
What is Kerto-Ripa? "The Kerto-Ripa LVL element, developed together with Metsä Wood, is a good example of the innovative potential of wood. Kerto-Ripa elements are made structurally by gluing, enabling the rigid and long-span floor and ceiling structures to be manufactured in a material-efficient manner. Kerto-Ripa is a CE-marked product. The manufacturing of Kerto-Ripa is closely monitored. Every element we supply is traceable."
What kind of partner is VVR Wood? "We want to be a flexible partner and provide the customer structures that exactly meet their needs. The flexibility of ArchiFrame helps us. It is a must that the final package meets the customer's needs. It helps that we have chosen the right technical solutions, such as ArchiFrame. We want to participate in the whole process right from project planning and be a profitable and secure partner for architects and builders."