Positive Impact: Hybrid Timber and Concrete Could Drive Decarbonisation

Metsä Wood develops new hybrid product using timber and concrete - ‘Sandwich’ building element brings high strength and durability

Sun 30 Apr 23


Metsä Wood, a Finnish engineered wood product manufacturer, has teamed up with Heidelberg Materials Precast Contiga, a Swedish concrete producer, in a cross-industry collaboration. Announced on Friday, the partnership aims to capitalize on the benefits of combining wood and concrete in future building structures.

The objective is to jointly create and introduce a hybrid component with a minimal carbon footprint.

This partnership involves initiating the development of a novel hybrid component, which is comprised of both wood and concrete as essential building materials. The result of combining climate-enhanced concrete with wood is a unique type of building component that offers increased strength, durability, and reduced weight and carbon footprint.

70 percent lower climate impact

The hybrid component is expected to have a significantly improved environmental impact. The so-called sandwich component is ideal for exterior walls, providing heightened resistance to weather and wind. It is constructed using Metsä Wood’s Kerto LVL Q-panel as a load-bearing core panel and an external panel of Heidelberg Materials’ climate-enhanced concrete.

Footage courtesy of @metsagroup

Jussi Björman, business director of construction at Metsä Wood, explains, “By developing a hybrid element, we want to see how the different technical properties of wood and concrete can work together to support each other in building structures.”

Björman added, “Our joint development work is a step forward to find new ways for the construction industry to continue building in a sustainable way and with an even lower climate footprint,”

As the construction industry undergoes a transformation, Daniel Eriksson, division manager at Heidelberg Materials Precast Contiga, Norrtälje, stated, “the transition to climate-neutral concrete by 2030 progresses, and we’re working on numerous other valuable initiatives to minimise the climate footprint of construction materials.”

Heidelberg Materials uses ‘climate enhanced concrete’ in the hybrid timber structure. Last month, BBC News reported on the emergence of ‘greener’ concrete materials. Footage courtesy of @BBCNews

Eriksson explained that this involves reducing raw materials throughout the value chain, ensuring the appropriate materials are used in the right locations, and developing new products. The partnership with Metsä Wood aligns with this strategy, and hybrid components will become a valuable addition to its existing product range.

At the production facility in Norrtälje, a prototype of the hybrid component has been created, and smaller hybrid components have been test-cast to verify the manufacturing technology.

The upcoming step this year involves constructing a realistic test building to assess various designs and how the hybrid component reacts when exposed to moisture and different forces.

Research: Hybrid timber systems could be the new reinforced concrete

The collaboration agreement between Metsä Wood and Heidelberg Materials Precast Contiga means that the companies are now starting joint development work of a competitive hybrid element.

In March 2022, researchers at The Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research at Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut set up a research project looking at the long-term value of combining timber and concrete into hybrid building systems.

Scientists from around the globe – with an equal number of women and men, are investigating the amalgamation of timber and concrete, as well as the use of timber reinforced with carbon fibres or flax in a polymer matrix for increased rigidity.

The team has devised a new approach for combining timber and concrete, which is usually achieved mechanically using steel nails, plates, and nets.

According to Prof. Libo Yan, Senior Scientist and Junior Research Group Leader:

“By bonding the materials with polyurethane or epoxy resin, we can reduce the weight of the timber hybrids and hasten the manufacturing process by up to 15%,” explains Yan

As for the hybrid product, a release is anticipated to be available in the Swedish market within a few years and may eventually attract interest from overseas markets.


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