First dialogue with Arkhangelsk region, Russia & Nordics to support the wood construction industry
The first dialogue around wood and construction across the Nordic countries and Arkhangelsk region was organised in November 2020 by Nordregio and Nordic partners together with Sergey Rebtsovskiy, vice chairman of the Foundation of Participants of the Presidential Program Participants in the Arkhangelsk region. The aim was to gather interested actors in the Russian region of Arkhangelsk and make an assessment of their interests and possibilities for cooperation.
Participating companies included:
- TITAN Group Company: a full-cycle company, with key business areas: logging, transportation of forest products, commercial real estate, hospitality, builds houses in wood and plans to start plywood production. The company has a presence in Europe and North Africa. It helps its employees to build wooden houses.
- Interstroy: builds houses, saunas, terraces, touristic and campsite buildings from the regularised round timber (round logs).
- Arkhangelsk Glued Beams Plant: is a full-cycle enterprise: makes buildings from beginning to the end builds private residential houses, saunas, hotels, restaurants and tourist centres in different regions of Russia.
- Arkhangelsk pulp and paper mill: the largest producer of containerboard and one of the leaders in the production of cellulose in Russia with 900.000 ton of cellulose production yearly.
The Northern (Arctic) Federal University and the PomorInnovaLes Cluster were also represented. The university plays an important role in forming specialists working in forestry and with wood. The Cluster helps companies find solutions to challenges in the industry, such as technology, developing standards and attract funding.
From a political level, the Ministry of natural resources and forestry of the Arkhangelsk region was represented. The ministry actively supports the wood in the construction sphere in the region.
International Community - Build in Wood digital platform
Mr Peder Fynholm, from the Danish Technological Institute, announced the creation of a digital platform designed to build an international community around wood construction. Russian participants were invited to join the platform when launched in spring 2021.
Mr Fynholm represents the EU funded project ‘Build in Wood’ (https://www.build-in-wood.eu/). This is a €10-million project with 21 participants in 11 countries, Europe and Canada. The project aims to “drastically increasing the proportion of timber construction”. They intend to do that by making it more natural to use wooden materials in construction through 1) innovations in the value chain, 2) reduction of carbon emissions, 3) improving rural-urban connectivity and increasing productivity. These efforts offer environmental, economic and social benefits.
Key interests identified:
- Exploring business opportunities (e.g new suppliers and markets);
- Technology transfer;
- Learning about legal requirements and standards in the Nordic countries;
- Sustainable practices and certifications;
- Architecture and design; and
- Building a community.
The participating companies see themselves as competitors, and hence, are not necessarily ready to collaborate with each other. However, the emphasis was made about the benefits of collaborating and building a community. Mads Randbøll Wolff, from the Nordic Wood in Construction Secretariat emphasised that “together, we can work in expanding the market for wood construction, with benefits for all”. In his experience, “peer-to-peer learning is beneficial for individual companies and for the industry as a whole”. Mr Fynholm further explained that the processes and issues that companies face around the world are the same, and therefore, knowledge exchange enables the whole industry to evolve and solve common problems.
Mr Andrey Eloukov from Arkhangelsk Glued Beams Plant recalled visiting Mjøstårnet, the world’s highest 18-story wooden building in Brumunddal, Norway. This was a revelation for him, he said, and since then they “started promoting wood in construction and working to make wooden construction attractive”.
Most companies are not particularly concerned with environmental problems, or at least it is not their top priority. However, Mr Eloukov recognises that ‘still we understand we need to change - take into account environmental issues’. Yet, the industry sees the need to overcome other urgent challenges, such as:
- Public procurement requirements do not support wood construction, but typically the cheapest option favouring prefabricated cement and iron construction.
- There are very few specialists in the industry.
- Regulatory frameworks.
- Prejudice for the wooden buildings, compared to other materials. There is a general fear of wood buildings as they are generally associated with ‘traditional construction’, not modern buildings.
However, the tide seems to be changing. New legislation will allow construction of larger buildings. The public sector, particularly in Arkhangelsk is more active in enabling the development of the industry. Present in the meeting, Marina Odintsova, from the ministry of natural resources and forestry, expressed being “very interested in developing wood and construction in the Arkhangelsk region - and thus participate in this meeting to explore opportunities”.
Moreover, Mr Eloukov also recalls a recent ‘victory’ with the construction of Arkhangelsk Ice Arena, built in 1981. The Ice Arena is the country's first public building covered with 63 meters long glued wooden arches. Scientists developed special equipment that significantly improved the production of glued wooden arches. The first arch of the Ice Arena was assembled in three days, the last one in 3 hours.
Changes in legislation, political support and the increasing demand from single houses, gives many hopes for the development of the wood construction industry. Upcoming meetings will enable dialogue between key actors in Arkhangelsk and in the Nordic countries, with concrete lines of cooperation, including business relations, technology exchange, standards, and building a community.
Mr. Fynholm and Nordregio encourage participants to join the online platform that will be launched by the ‘Build in Wood’ project, where they will be able to exchange knowledge, learn from other members and possibly to build collaborations and identify business partners. The PomorInnovaLes forest cluster and Northern Federal University already signalled their interest in joining the community.