Pulse Articles Carbon neutral solutions

Exploring the Horizon of Timber Construction: Building a cross-boundary community of data-driven practice

Today’s world is facing a challenge due to climate change, worldwide population growth, energy demand, increased infra­structure demand, and alarming resource scarcity. The construction industry has been identified as one of the major catalysts of the adverse effects of climate change. It is crucial to reinvent the best practices through bench­marking to achieve carbon neutrality in the construction industry for better environment. The oppor­tunity for cross-border collab­o­ration amongst countries that share similar goals to achieve the carbon neutrality, can be a window to share updated expertise and excel in construction technology.

The following article portrays how an inter­na­tional collab­o­ration project called ‘Sustainable Building Technologies- Community of Practice’ has contributed to expert community devel­opment for sustainable devel­opment, specially focusing on timber construction techniques.


The construction industry and buildings consume about 40% of all energy and release about 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e). This means that an increased focus on carbon-neutral construction combined with the circu­larity of construction residues can create a signif­icant impact on reaching the sustainable devel­opment goals (SDGs) by 2030 set by the EU. While countries are setting ambitious goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, having inter­na­tional perspectives/collaboration might make the route there more efficient. 

According to a universal survey on how companies are now working to incor­porate their activ­ities with the SDGs by the World Business Council for Sustainable Devel­opment (WBCSD), and DNV GL (2018), SDG 13 (climate action) is the most ranked goal, and the respon­sible consumption and production goal (SDG 12) scored the highest percentage in Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions (Gomme & Perks, 2018). Therefore, it is important to analyse how the construction industry, being one of the most important sectors respon­sible for climate change and resource usage, can move towards sustainability.

There is great scope for inter­na­tion­al­ising current best practices in wood construction to enhance the compet­i­tiveness of wood construction for sustainable cities. Those questions related to infor­mation management are a partic­u­larly important area for compet­i­tiveness. A tool for infor­mation management is building infor­mation modelling (BIM), which is widely used but still needs a widely applied study. This research project aims to build a community to research effective approaches towards different real-time challenges in wood construction and reinforce wood construction knowledge in different contexts (e.g. Finland, Austria and Germany).

The article explains where inter­na­tional projects can contribute to a better under­standing of common grounds of challenges and possible mitigation strategies.  The article also explains how exploring common barriers and possi­bil­ities can help develop a cross-boundary community of advanced wood construction research and practices.


There is a debate about multi­storey wood construction and tradi­tional material-based construction. The reason is that wood construction is still seen as a more expensive construction method compared to tradi­tional ones in Europe. In addition, the adequacy of the supply chain is under question, especially for massive wood construction. However, to meet the goal of sustainable devel­opment, building construction needs to be seen in the light of the entire life cycle of buildings.

Several researchers, such as Omer & Noguchi (2019) and Ribeiro & Gonçalves (2019), have associated the expected growth of urban­i­sation and large cities in the coming decades with signif­icant production of raw materials and consumption of natural resources and economic movements. Hence, this could cause adverse environ­mental and social impacts. Indeed, it will increase the need for green building materials for constructing new buildings and infra­structure to accom­modate these expan­sions and to achieve overall sustainable devel­opment (Omer & Noguchi 2019).

One of the challenges here is to develop a generic platform for the comparison of different materials, which can be considered in a wide variety of contexts/countries. There is a need to develop new wood-based products to fulfil the tight­ening require­ments of low-carbon construction. Therefore, a compar­ative analysis of whole-life embodied carbon and GHG emissions from multi­storey buildings consid­ering different materials (e.g. concrete, brick, wood, steel) needs further research.

The article sheds light on the current challenges towards inter­na­tion­al­ising the best practices in wood construction through expert commu­ni­cation located in three selected case study cities. Obser­va­tions from cross-boundary expert discus­sions, workshops, empirical studies and liter­ature reviews were used. The study helps to pinpoint the common ground of challenges and possible mitigation strategies for the future to develop a cross-boundary community of advanced wood construction practices.


The article briefly explains how inter­na­tional collab­o­ration in the SBTCP project (Sustainable Building Technologies – Community of Practice) has effec­tively contributed to the research developed by the cross-border community of profes­sionals, companies and stake­holders from three countries: Finland, Austria and Germany.

The objec­tives of the article are to:

  1. assess and explain how the SBTCP project is inter­na­tion­al­ising wood construction knowledge and benefiting cross-border countries
  2. explain the common inter­na­tion­al­i­sation framework of the SBTCP project for reinforcing wood construction knowledge and best practices 


The SBTCP project connects cross-border wood construction experts, resulting in two main output areas: 1) research devel­opment and 2) practice-oriented community devel­opment. While the devel­opment of the SBTCP project concerns collab­o­ration amongst three partner univer­sities located in three countries, the method for the project devel­opment includes expert opinions, liter­ature review, pilot testing, and empirical studies based on obser­va­tions in the selected contexts.


The SBTCP project is a platform of three collab­o­rating partner univer­sities. The research activity of the project started by selecting research topics for collab­o­ration by the partner univer­sities from Finland, Austria and Germany. 

The objec­tives of the SBTCP project are:

  1. Identi­fying key research topics in sustainable construction
  2. Knowledge sharing and pilot-testing solutions for the pinpointed problems from the partner countries with expert support/companies
  3. Workshop activ­ities and knowledge hub devel­opment connecting with inter­na­tional students
  4. Dissem­i­nation and publi­ca­tions in collab­o­ration with inter­na­tional partners

Figure 1 illus­trates how the SBTCP project is tying together three main concepts from three different countries: 1) Sustainable Buildings, 2) Building Infor­mation Modelling, and 3) Material Sciences, from the perspective of Finland, Germany and Austria. The Venn diagram shows the overlapping areas of research oppor­tu­nities through collab­o­ration, which will poten­tially reinforce the expertise and knowledge of wood construction. 

Figure 1. Research collab­o­ration model of the SBTCP project.

The possible outcomes of inter­na­tion­al­ising best practices through expert collab­o­ration from cross-boundary organ­i­sa­tions are as follows:

  1. Identi­fi­cation of real-time/­con­textual challenges
  2. Cross-boundary best practice sharing
  3. Mitigating barriers to the inter­na­tion­al­i­sation process
  4. Connection devel­opment with stake­holders and companies 

Figure 2 shows the resultant framework of the SBTCP project and how it connects three partnering univer­sities and experts from Finland, Germany and Austria to develop the research and wood expert community. The framework leads to findings such as:

  1. Contextual challenges identi­fi­cation is required to pinpoint areas of expertise/best practice sharing,
  2. Identi­fi­cation of barriers against the inter­na­tion­al­i­sation process can ease/speed up future inter­na­tional collab­o­ration and boost the active involvement of stake­holders and companies.

The findings from the SBTCP framework align with the outcomes of inter­na­tion­al­ising best practices for a sustainable future. 

Figure 2 Framework for internationalizing wood construction technologies through SBTCP project.
Figure 2 Framework for inter­na­tion­al­izing wood construction technologies through SBTCP project.


The framework shown in Figure 1 indicates the need for devel­oping common ground in cross-boundary collab­o­rative research for effective infor­mation- and expertise-sharing. Furthermore, the framework of the SBTCP project in Figure 2 indicates the simul­ta­neous incor­po­ration of inter­na­tional experts and open up-to-date data along with hands-on experience-based insights, leading to a deeper under­standing of contextual differ­ences, challenges/barriers, common­al­ities, and therefore opportunities/ways of effective future collab­o­ration. Here, inter­na­tional collab­o­ration can support data collection, analysis and up-to-date expertise sharing using a common language for the long-term futur­istic global utili­sation of research outputs during the project period. Moreover, the research data will reinforce the global-scale knowledge of wood construction for sustainable devel­opment, which ultimately indicates the robust outcome of inter­na­tion­al­i­sation of the common practices in countries all over the world. 


Shammi Akter Keya, Project Researcher, Karelia University of Applied Sciences

Timo Pakarinen, Project Manager, Lecturer, Karelia University of Applied Sciences


Omer, M. & Noguchi, T. 2019. A conceptual framework for under­standing the contri­bution of building materials in the achievement of Sustainable Devel­opment Goals (SDGs). Sustainable Cities and Society, 52, p.101869. Available at:

Ribeiro, P. J. G., & Gonçalves, L. (2019). Urban Resilience: A conceptual framework. Sustainable Cities and Society, 50 (May), 101625. Available at:

Gomme, J., & Perks, J. (2018). Business and the SDGs: A survey of WBCSD members and Global Network partners. WBCSD. Available at:

Photo by Matic Kozinc on Unsplash