The imposing showroom of the Estonian Woodhouse Association strikes an impressive contrast against its backdrop of centuries-old log houses that make up the Estonian Open-Air Museum in Rocca al Mare, Tallinn. A modern and sleek wooden house equipped with the latest innovative smart solutions, it clearly draws experience and inspiration from the long history of wooden house building in Estonia, with over 160 companies partnering to build the state-of-the-art showroom for demonstrating the best Estonian engineering skills.
Wooden houses have become a major export sector for this Nordic-Baltic country, with annual production volumes reaching over 500 million EUR and 90% of this volume exported. The main international markets for Estonian timber construction enterprises are Norway, Sweden, Germany and Finland, forming over 75% of the total export share, with other major markets including France, Holland, United Kingdom, Italy and even Japan. And as a true testament of punching above its weight, every 4th wooden house exported from the European Union is manufactured in Estonia. For the past 10 years Estonia has been the largest exporter of European wooden houses, ranking only behind China and Canada in global statistics.
Besides the excellent engineering skills and expertise of Estonian timber construction enterprises, Estonia benefits greatly from its geographic location – at the crossroads between the East and the West and the North and the South. A European business culture coupled with a Nordic mindset and an almost spiritual connection to nature and forests mean that Estonian businesses value wood, timber and forests in general higher than many others, pushing to utilise natural resources to the maximum with little or no material going to waste.
The Estonian wooden house industry has set ambitious goals for itself – the aim is to contribute towards the global fight against climate change. A wooden house is a ‘carbon bank’ – carbon is ‘bound’ to the structures of the building for decades and thus helps to reduce emissions through energy efficiency and the use of renewable materials. While the association does not advocate building all future houses from wood, it does suggest using more wooden materials for replacing non-renewable materials, such as concrete, wherever possible. The production of pre-fabricated wooden houses is one of the eco-friendliest construction methods, as processes are quick and automated and all resources are used optimally.
Wood can be used as building material for nearly all types of houses, but it takes years of engineering experience to know exactly what to use and where. Cross laminated timber (CLT) possesses the same strength and durability characteristics as concrete, but it takes the same amount of resources to produce either 1 cubic metre of steel construction or 10 cubic metres of glass or 100 cubic metres of concrete materials… or 1000 cubic metres of timber-based construction materials.
Estonian timber construction enterprises are known for boldly accepting and delivering challenging solutions, carefully taking into consideration climatic requirements, customer needs and environmental aspects. Among some of the standout projects delivered by Estonian wooden house companies include the Oodi library in Helsinki, Finland and a 14-storey wooden building Treet in Bergen, Norway.
While with major pre-fab houses manufacturers it is customary for the client to adapt to the ready-made solution, whereas in Estonia it is the manufacturer who is keen to adapt the process and final product around the client’s specifications. Estonia is well-known internationally for its ICT-prowess and the digital realm is making headway in the construction industry as well, as processes become more automated, allowing for flexibility and competitive pricing without cutting back on quality.
As a building material, wood is far better for regulating humidity and temperature than concrete and creates a friendlier environment for humans, especially the little ones. Estonian wooden house manufacturers have a long history of building schools and kindergartens from timber products around the world. Quality assurance is of utmost importance when delivering special projects and the Estonian wooden houses industry can proudly claim to be the most certified building sector in Europe, with the most ETA certificates for timber house manufacturers in absolute numbers. This universal level of certified craftsmanship offers Estonian producers unique possibilities for partnerships and collaboration, allowing to pool their resources to tackle even very large-scale orders.
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