Wood Wonders exhibition showcases climate-friendly building concepts

If all the buildings constructed in Finland each year were made of wood, the amount of wood needed for their construction would grow back in ten hours.
Wood Wonders exhibition at Helsinki airport. Photo: Anne Kinnunen
Photo: Anne Kinnunen

As a construction material, wood has five fascinating strengths.

  1. Wood stores carbon.
  2. Wood is a versatile and striking building material.
  3. Wood binds moisture and feels warm, which reduces the energy needed in housing.
  4. Wood is long-lasting: wood structures can be reused, repaired and recycled.
  5. Wood has superpowers: amazing new chemical properties are continually being discovered in wood, wood fibre, and the fibre binder lignin. 

Based on these strengths, Wood Wonders presents building concepts and wood structures that are carbon-neutral, recyclable and versatile. The exhibition also introduces research projects that in recent years have engineered the chemical properties of wood.

Wood works wonders.

Wood Wonders was designed by a multidisciplinary team with members from three of Aalto's Schools, and it opened in entrance hall 2B at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on 5 February 2020. The exhibition is part of a long-term passenger experience collaboration with Finavia.

The Finnish Ministry of the Environment has supported the exhibition. 

Exhibition materials: 
Metsä Wood
Fiskarsin laatupuu
Tikkurila Oyj

The exhibited concepts below:

1.  Wood stores carbon

According to the Natural Resources Institute Finland, 75 per cent of Finland's surface area is forested. 

There are, on average, 12,500 trees for every Finnish citizen. 

Zero-energy Luukku house. Photo: Montse Zamorano Gañán
One Luukku House binds the same amount of CO2 that would be generated if a person were to drive the length of Finland from north to south in a passenger car 170 times. Photo: Montse Zamorano Gañán

2.  Wood is a versatile and noble building material

When used thoughtfully, wood helps us reduce our carbon footprint, as wood-bound carbon is stored in buildings even for centuries.

Wood is a renewable material. If all the buildings constructed in Finland each year were made of wood, the amount of wood needed for the construction would grow back in ten hours.

In addition to environmental aspects, wood is also a luxurious, attractive and versatile building material. 

Kokoon kitchen Photo by Marc Goodwin
The Kokoon kitchen is made of laminated veneer lumber. Photo: Marc Goodwin

3. Wood buffers moisture, feels warm and looks good

As a material, wood is valuable, unpretentious and vivid. People have a natural desire to touch wooded surfaces because wood feels good. In buildings, wood cladding buffers moisture, which in turn reduces the need for air conditioning and thus also energy consumption. 

According to the Wood2New and WoodLife studies, wood-clad interior areas feel +2°C warmer than those clad with other materials, which reduces the need for heating. The 1.5 Degree Lifestyles study calculated that a decrease in indoor temperature by two degrees would reduce the annual carbon footprint by approximately 2%. 

Housing, mainly heating and air conditioning, is responsible for approximately 25% of our carbon dioxide emissions. The smart design of structures and indoor spaces can significantly reduce energy requirements.

The final report of Wood2New research project

Kokoon house lifted to its new location. Photo: Juho Haavisto
Kokoon house is lifted to a new location. Photo: Juho Haavisto

4. Wood structures can be reused, repaired and recycled

In terms of the climate, it's important to extend the life cycle of wood products: to design wood products that have a long life cycle and that can be recycled. Some old wooden buildings have stood for hundreds of years.

New buildings should be designed in such a way that they could be used for a longer time, repaired and reused. 


Sustainable wooden building concepts


Designing for life cycle and disassembly

Wood is a temporal carbon storage, so prolonging the life cycle of wood products can contribute to mitigating climate change. Furthermore, the implementation of Design for Disassembly (DfD) principles in constructions might increase the reuse of wood products.

The life cycle of buildings spans from the planning of land use and construction to the actual construction phase and on to the reuse, demolition and recycling of buildings.

Wood-based structural shimmering wood colour has no colour pigments. Photo: Valeria Azovskaya
Wood-based structural shimmering wood colour has no colour pigments. Photo: Valeria Azovskaya

5. Wood has superpowers 

Wood still has a lot of untapped potential for new types of products that can be used to replace harmful and non-renewable materials in construction.

Wood has superpowers: new amazing properties are continually being discovered in wood, wood fibre (cellulose) and the fibre binder (lignin). The chemically engineered wood-based products can replace plastics, adhesives, solvents and other environmentally harmful substances.


In the future, new types of bio-based cellulose structures, such as nanocellulose, have promising applications in organic paints, water-repellent surface treatments and acoustic elements. They may also replace some of the stone-based materials in construction. 

Bioproducts may replace fossil materials

The Bioproduct Chemistry group develops renewable, high added-value materials based on wood polymers, like lignocellulosics (cellulose and lignin), and the research is especially focused on understanding interfacial properties.

Lignin is an excellent alternative as a replacement for fossil materials. It is created as a byproduct of pulping, and it can partly or completely replace phenol formaldehyde resin adhesives used in plywood, hardboard, chipboard and laminate. It can also be used in functional coatings, which improve weather durability. Lignin can also be used a raw material for carbon fibre and in production of bioplastics and liquid fuels.

Designs for a Cooler Planet — Helsinki Design Week 2020
Wood Wonders: Kokoon house scale model. Photo: Anne Kinnunen

Building with wood is a climate-friendly option – the Wood Wonders exhibition provides five interesting viewpoints on construction

Forest wood used in buildings can bind carbon for centuries. Wood is a strong and versatile building material that improves indoor air quality, reduces the need for heating and air conditioning – and provides pleasure.

Luukku House was designed to have a low carbon footprint. Photo by Anne Kinnunen

Growing demand for climate-friendly construction: could wood architecture become one of Finland’s exports?

The Wood Wonders exhibition to be opened at Helsinki Airport on the 5th of February will show passengers the innovations related to wood construction and display the sector’s latest developments.

Architect doing handson work at the Wood Program of Aalto University. Photo by Anne Kinnunen

Wood Program

The Wood Program is a one-year program of study that focuses on wood architecture and industrial building. The program is intended for architects, engineers and other students with a background in design and strong interest in timber construction.

Unexepected encounters exhibition: Matilda Tuure's colourful glass work presenting Bacterial Cellulose Samples

Renewing society by art, creativity and design

Aalto University promotes creativity in all disciplines and communities. One of our strategic targets is to renew society through art, creativity and design. We are a forerunner in combining art and creative practices with research and education.

Research & Art
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