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Future export markets of industrial wood construction – A qualitative backcasting study

  • Adjunct professor, research coordinator on bio-economy, forest economics and marketing, University of Helsinki

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The forest sector can play a major role in the transformation to a sustainable bioeconomy, driven by climate change, population growth, and accelerated urbanization. However, in most contexts, the industrial wood construction markets, as a promising field for sustainable bioeconomy, are still at a niche level. The analysis in this study concerns the preferred future export markets for industrial wood construction for the Finnish wood construction industry, as viewed by a panel of industrial, policy and academic experts. The aim is to identify promising export markets for Finland, and to identify required pathways by 2030. A qualitative participatory backcasting method was applied to explore the future visions of the industrial wood construction (IWC) sector and its export markets, as well as the pathways from the current towards the envisioned future. Thirty-five experts formed a panel which produced five visions of the development of industrial wood construction sector exports from Finland, covering the period 2020–2030. All the visions foresaw that the domestic market needs to develop first, to build up the competencies needed to fuel the growth in the exports. Asia, particularly China with its rapidly growing markets, and Europe, with its growing sustainability awareness, commonly appeared as the most promising areas for export growth. The resulting visions differed in terms of export portfolios, varying from more traditional wood materials and products to product-service-solutions. The policy measures identified to accelerate the envisioned growth included harmonization of product and building standards and regulations in the Nordic region and beyond, developing the educational base, and using of digital solutions in building new networks and communication in the IWC sector.
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Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
Available online 17 April 2021
1389-9341/© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
Future export markets of industrial wood construction A qualitative
backcasting study
Ritva Toivonen , Anna Lilja , Heini Vihem¨
aki , Anne Toppinen
University of Helsinki, Department of Forest Sciences and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, 00014, Finland
Wooden multi-storey construction
Futures studies
International market selection
The forest sector can play a major role in the transformation to a sustainable bioeconomy, driven by climate
change, population growth, and accelerated urbanization. However, in most contexts, the industrial wood
construction markets, as a promising eld for sustainable bioeconomy, are still at a niche level. The analysis in
this study concerns the preferred future export markets for industrial wood construction for the Finnish wood
construction industry, as viewed by a panel of industrial, policy and academic experts. The aim is to identify
promising export markets for Finland, and to identify required pathways by 2030. A qualitative participatory
backcasting method was applied to explore the future visions of the industrial wood construction (IWC) sector
and its export markets, as well as the pathways from the current towards the envisioned future. Thirty-ve
experts formed a panel which produced ve visions of the development of industrial wood construction sector
exports from Finland, covering the period 20202030. All the visions foresaw that the domestic market needs to
develop rst, to build up the competencies needed to fuel the growth in the exports. Asia, particularly China with
its rapidly growing markets, and Europe, with its growing sustainability awareness, commonly appeared as the
most promising areas for export growth. The resulting visions differed in terms of export portfolios, varying from
more traditional wood materials and products to product-service-solutions. The policy measures identied to
accelerate the envisioned growth included harmonization of product and building standards and regulations in
the Nordic region and beyond, developing the educational base, and using of digital solutions in building new
networks and communication in the IWC sector.
1. Introduction
The construction sector faces a pressing need to shift towards envi-
ronmentally sustainable and climate smart, low-carbon solutions. This is
because buildings are responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions
(World GBC, 2019), combined with the common estimations of strong
future population growth and urbanization. Wood-based urban building
solutions are one of the options for addressing these challenges and the
carbon storage capacity of harvested wood products is a sustainability
benet. The use of wood in construction reduces environmental and
climatic impacts of construction, such as carbon emissions, energy and
non-renewable material consumption, when compared with concrete or
steel construction (Upton et al., 2008; Sathre and Gustavsson, 2009).
Due to its climatic and other sustainability benets, wood con-
struction has been assessed as having a growing market potential
(Kibert, 2016; Kuzman and Sandberg, 2017), particularly in the urban
contexts. In Europe, there are signs of actual growth in industrial wood
construction: new wood-based products suitable on an industrial scale in
an urban context have been introduced within the past few decades
These include cross-laminated timber (CLT) which is also suitable for
residential wooden multi-storey construction (WMC) (e.g., Brege et al.,
2014). These new products and technologies have been the subject of
growing attention in Europe, but also in countries such as Canada,
Australia and the United States (e.g., Moriarty, 2018; Evison et al.,
2018). There is signicant potential for sustainable wood-based solu-
tions on the construction sector. However, realizing this potential will
call for new technologies and products suitable for urban construction
and large scale industrial production, and major overall development in
the wood industry and construction sector.
Future development of WMC markets, as a key sector of industrial
wood construction (IWC), has been addressed in several studies, but at a
rather general level (e.g., Riala and Ilola, 2014; Hurmekoski et al., 2015;
Rebane and Reihan, 2016; Toppinen et al., 2018; Markstr¨
om et al.,
2019) or by focusing more on the external market and policy
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: anne.toppinen@helsinki. (A. Toppinen).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
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Received 12 March 2020; Received in revised form 29 March 2021; Accepted 10 April 2021
Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
environment (Hurmekoski et al., 2015; Packalen et al., 2017). Regarding
the demand drivers of residential side of WMC, Hurmekoski et al. (2015)
highlighted that economic growth, urbanization and demographic
development are the key inuencing factors. The importance of con-
sumer perceptions, industry attitudes and regulatory frameworks with
regard to use of wood in construction have been emphasized in previous
studies (e.g., Jonsson, 2009; Wang et al., 2014; Markstr¨
om et al., 2019).
However, the expected effects of such factors on future WMC markets, or
more largely IWC markets, have not been systematically analysed.
Overall, the role of international trade or marketing aspects for the
future development of IWC have scarcely been studied so far, consti-
tuting a knowledge gap.
Despite many factors creating the potential for growth, and the
emergence of new wood products and technologies suitable for urban
markets, industrial wood construction solutions are still a niche in Eu-
ropean and global construction markets. Finland is no exception in this
regard: exports of wooden housing comprises mainly single houses
anninen et al., 2007). The domestic market is the largest market area
for Finnish wooden (construction) products. However, the volume of the
domestic markets has decreased during the period 20082014 due to a
lengthy economic recession and the concentration of building activity in
the urban areas, dominated by multi-storey building. The market share
of residential WMC remains at around 56% of all residential multi-
storey buildings (Franzini et al., 2018). Based on informal forest in-
dustry statistics, wooden houses account for only a couple of percent and
building joineries less than one-tenth of the total export value of wood
products in Finland. Investments in value-added engineered wood
products (EWPs) have increased in the country, including new green-
eld CLT plants, albeit slowly.
One cause of the persistently low market share of WMC in the con-
struction business is the conservativeness of the building industry and
the strong path dependency favouring concrete as a raw material
(Hurmekoski et al., 2015, Matinaro and Liu, 2017, Hemstr¨
om et al.,
2017). In addition, while end-users may associate wood as a construc-
tion material in a positive way, soft factorslike eco-friendliness, aes-
thetics or renewability of material are not sufciently strong to trigger
higher demand for WMC (Gold and Rubik, 2009; Viholainen et al.,
2020). Additionally, end-users also have their prejudices about wood,
related to perceived poor re safety and higher maintenance costs of
wooden materials (see for example Høibø et al., 2018; Larasatie et al.,
WMC projects typically involve several partners with different
expertise and interests (Hemstr¨
om et al., 2011; Toppinen et al., 2019).
This creates challenges, because traditional business ecosystems need to
adapt to changes in markets and customer needs in order to function
efciently. Lack of knowledge about WMC technology among the con-
struction sector experts, and absence of common standards for WMC
construction also slow down the adoption of wood in urban and indus-
trial scale construction (Franzini et al., 2018). If international markets
are targeted, the knowledge base includes understanding of customer
needs in export markets. In addition, marketing and international
business skills are important for success (Hietala et al., 2019).
Modern industrial wood construction may be still considered to be
innovative solutions which so far have had only a niche market segment.
Hence, forecasting such complicated and multi-dimensional develop-
ment like export markets of industrial wood construction is difcult due
to lack of any historical empirical data, such as export statistics.
Therefore, qualitative foresight approaches are needed.
In this paper we attempted 1) to build visions for the future pathways
of the presently immature wood-construction-related export markets,
and 2) to identify promising future target markets in the case of Finnish
industrial wood construction sector. A qualitative, participatory back-
casting approach with a comprehensive expert panel data has been used
to produce alternative visions of the export market development,
including the composition of a preferable export portfolio in most
appealing market areas. We utilized an international market selection
(IMS) approach (e.g. Andersen and Buvik, 2002) in designing key ele-
ments to inform experts of critical aspects to be considered in assessing
attractive export markets. Hence, our interest in the backcasting process
was also to build experiences from applicability of this approach in the
case of both new innovative products and immature niche markets.
2. Background for building development pathways and
identifying export markets
Amara (1991) classied the approaches of futures research into three
categories: identifying the possible, the probable and the preferable
futures. We follow the latter approach through which futures research is
characterised by understanding the future as something that can be
inuenced, rather than something that only needs to be predicted and
accommodated in the form of various potential scenarios (H¨
ojer et al.,
2011). With this approach, we used the backcasting methodology,
which is particularly applied in creating future visions of complex and
immature phenomena, such as our research case. It differs from regular
forecasting which predicts the future from the present using explorative
scenarios (e.g. Vergragt and Quist, 2011). In the forest sector, quanti-
tative scenario studies have been more predominant than applications of
participatory backcasting. However, e.g., Hurmekoski and Sjølie (2018)
and Sjølie et al. (2016) provide insight on the complementarity of the
scenario and backcasting methods in the eld of forest sector studies.
According to Dreborg (1996), backcasting methods are suited for
long-term issues in comparison to the traditional forecasting approaches
strengthening ongoing trends, which prevents observing alternative
pathways or breaks in trends. Backcasting is particularly suitable for
determining long-term future visions, and for analysing potential
alternative developments of complex issues, e.g., such as technological
changes (Phdungsilp, 2011; Doyle and Davies, 2013; Dreborg, 1996;
Mont et al., 2014), and in creating visions of preferable future devel-
opment, and in nding ways to adapt to or inuence changes in the
future (Quist and Vergragt, 2006). According to Bibri (2018), it is
viewed as a natural step in operationalizing sustainable development
within different societal spheres due to its normative, goal-oriented, and
problem-solving character. In line with Wangel (2011), we thus benet
from applying backcasting as a participation-oriented workshop tech-
nique, but also having results-oriented view for identifying the future
In the context of depicting the ideal future, the backcasting process
begins with dening a vision(s) of the future from normative perspec-
tive, and then identifying pathways to reach it (e.g., H¨
ojer and Mattson,
2000). This is a clear difference compared with e.g. econometric fore-
casting models that use historical data to create a prognosis of the future
based on a model of historic interlinkages between the underlying fac-
tors. In our study, we seeked to create preferable future visions of the
Finnish IWC sector and its export potential by applying a participatory
backcasting approach. This approach helps to recognize future oppor-
tunities (e.g. Phdungsilp, 2011; Quist and Vergragt, 2006). In practice,
the methodology used in this study comprises a systematic foresight
visioning exercise of potential export development pathways by 2030 in
the context of the Finnish IWC sector. This also enables systematically
identifying measures to reach such preferable futures.
International market selection (IMS) approach (e.g., Andersen and
Buvik, 2002; Brewer, 2001; Sakarya et al., 2007) has been employed to
identify key elements and criteria for assessing potentially attractive
export markets. IMS literature comprises of a variety of approaches (e.g.
Papadopoulos and Martin, 2011). However, IMS research commonly
draws attention to several important key issues for assessment, such as
political, cultural, demographic, social and economic environments,
geographic location and reachability, industrial structure and
advancement of technology, religion and education (Baorakis et al.,
2017; Brewer, 2001; Wood and Robertsons, 2000). The IMS approach
may also include identication of potentially attractive customer seg-
ments (Papadopoulos and Martin, 2011). This is a relevant consideration
R. Toivonen et al.
Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
also in this study, focusing on new products which do not yet have well-
established markets. The IWC business is rather fragmented and the
rms tend to be small and medium sized, but small rms can also benet
from the systematic selection procedures of international markets
(Brouthers and Nakos, 2005).
In this study, we applied the IMS approach, and used the key ele-
ments introduced by Brewers (2001) process model. In practice, the key
elements presented by Brewer (2001) were used as guidelines in framing
the questions in the expert panel surveys and instructions and infor-
mation given to the participants in the participatory workshop. The
background information provided for the experts included statistics on
exports of wood products from Finland. These key elements were
tailored and made to t the case of IWC/WMC markets with the help of
the literature (see e.g. Nordin et al., 2010; Riala and Ilola, 2014; Hur-
mekoski et al., 2015; Toppinen et al., 2019), and three thematic Finnish
IWC sector expert interviews.
3. Data and methods
In the study, our focus was on the exports of industrial wood con-
struction products, technologies and services, and visions of the pref-
erable future development of such markets. These products and
technologies are not yet well-established in any market, including
Finland. Statistical data to assess the future market potential were
therefore limited regarding our research object. We chose to use back-
casting as one of the normative approaches in futures research. The
backcasting approach in this study relied on a panel of Finnish experts
from wood industry and wood construction sector. The aim of the
analysis was 1) to determine preferred future visions of exports of in-
dustrial wood construction products and services from Finland by year
2030, and 2) to capture an understanding of potential development
pathways, including policy measures needed, for reaching the visions
(Fig. 1).
The foresight visioning procedure is based on a backcasting exercise
conducted with the panel of Finnish IWC sector experts (explained in
more detail below). By relying on the IMS and the WMC literature cited
above, the following factors were identied as important aspects to
consider in assessing potential future exports and export markets for
industrial wood products: 1) Acceptance of wood; including building
regulations and consumer attitudes, and 2) Demographics; including
market volume growth, urbanization, and population development.
To design the backcasting process in more detail, the current state of
the Finnish industrial wood construction sector and its exports had to be
assessed rst. Background data for this included statistics and other
secondary material (see Appendix 1). In addition, three thematic in-
terviews with wood construction sector experts provided background
data for the authors about the Finnish IWC sector. These results were
used as a background in wording the IMS key elements more tangibly
and relevant in the case of the Finnish wood industry for the backcasting
panel exercise guidelines, and the pre- and post-workshop survey
questionnaires. The backcasting workshop, and the pre- and post-
workshop surveys constituted the core elements of the data-collection
(see Fig. 1).
For the foresight backcasting workshop, 72 Finnish experts were
invited via a personal email invitation in January 2019. The wide target
group included experts employed in the public and private organizations
related to the wood industry and wood construction including the whole
value chain, which made the process participatory and open. In the end,
35 experts accepted the invitation and attended the backcasting work-
shop organized in Helsinki on 13 February 2019. Among the 35 work-
shop participants, 14 had industry background, 14 were academic
experts from either wood based value chains or educational sciences, 6
represented either national or local policy makers and 1 was from
media. As far as it was possible to assess, there was little difference in
terms of the professional backgrounds and levels of experience between
those who were invited and those who participated. The nal
composition of participants was representative in terms of the rather
specic area of expertise targeted, focusing on industrial wood con-
struction markets and exports.
In addition to the backcasting workshop, the panel of experts
received a survey questionnaire both before and after the workshop.
These pre- and post-workshop survey questionnaires (thematic, semi-
structured) were shared with the panel members through an electronic
survey tool. The survey results served to introduce the panel members to
the theme of the workshop, and supported the design of the themes to be
addressed in the actual workshop (pre-workshop survey), and in deep-
ening the visions created at the workshop (post-workshop survey),
particularly regarding future export products and markets. The panel-
lists answered the pre-workshop survey when they registered for the
event (27 responses). The survey themes are shown in Appendix 2.
The backcasting workshop for the expert panel started with eight
presentations providing various insights into wood construction exports
and products in Finland and globally. The actual foresight envisioning
activity started by dividing the panellists into ve teams based on their
various backgrounds. Each team had similar instructions and tasks: to
envision the future of the exports of Finnish industrial wood construc-
tion in 2030 (including key products/services, and key export regions,
and factors driving the changes) with the help of the pre-prepared
guiding questions provided by facilitators.
The questions followed the
international market selection model (IMS), which was built around our
study context with the preliminary expert interviews (see composition in
Appendix 1) and the pre-workshop survey results.
After coming up with the future vision, the teams concentrated on
analysis of the current markets. Next, the teams identied the resources
and measures necessary in 2020 in order to achieve the future vision by
Lastly, the teams drew up a development path leading from 2020
to the optimal vision in 2030, including the policy instruments and other
actions needed to support the envisioned development. As part of this,
an ideal mid-term condition of the Finnish wood construction industry
and its exports in 2025, was also formulated. These time points were to
help to address the themes being assessed or envisioned at different
The facilitators assisted in documenting the outcomes, including the
teams actions and comments, and kept track of the time. In the last hour
of the backcasting workshop, two of the ve teams presented and
grounded their visions, including the development pathways and the
identied the necessary actions to follow to this pathway from the
current situation. Other teams commented on the foresight visions
presented according to their own teams outcomes.
After the workshop, a follow-up questionnaire was sent to the experts
who had attended the workshop to collect more detailed data about the
key export countries and export volume development (11 responses)
(Appendix 2). The backcasting process thus included collecting data
from 1) the pre-workshop survey responses of 27 panel experts (indi-
vidual responses), 2) the workshop data (ve teams, in total 35 panel-
lists), 3) the post-workshop survey responses of 11 panel experts
(individual responses).
A researcher/student familiar with the topic.
The year 2030 is decided for the future assessment because many European
wood industrys promotional organizations position papers and political
enhancement strategies have been drawn up for 2030. This includes Manufu-
ture Vision 2030: Competitive, Sustainable and Resilient European
Manufacturing by Manufuture High-Level Group (2018), Revised vision 2030
for the European forest-based sector by the European Forest Technology Plat-
form (2012), and Government report on the National Energy and Climate
Strategy for 2030 by Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy (2017).
R. Toivonen et al.
Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
4. Results
4.1. Expert visions on industrial wood construction sector and exports by
The future visions about the Finnish industrial wood construction
sector, exports and the development pathways towards 2030 are
presented in this section as projected by the experts participating in the
backcasting workshop. The data from the expert panel pre- and post-
workshop surveys were used to create a more nuanced and in-depth
understanding about the variations in the visions and the related path-
ways. These insights are authenticated by using citations from the
Five visions resulted from the backcasting workshop to foresee
Fig. 1. Participatory backcasting process of the study.
Table 1
Key features of the visions created by ve teams of the industrial wood construction sector in Finland, and its exports in 2030.
Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5
Key characteristics of
the Vision 2030,
including type of
exports, target
regions (T), drivers of
change (D)
Export of expertise and
T: Cities in Europe, seismic
activity regions, Japan, China
and Australia
D: Existing networks and
strong co-operation with the
key players in the sector, high
levels of knowledge on
concepts of wood
Export of concepts and
projects, specialty service
buildings (e.g. kindergartens,
luxury multi-story buildings)
T: The Nordic countries, Russia
and China
D. High quality and speed of
wood construction projects,
in-depth understanding of
the customers
Export of value-added
materials, know-how,
integrated projects
T: China, Africa, Germany,
France, the UK and the Nordic
D: Well-established
ecosystems among the
industry and the sector, and
Smooth communication,
information on wood
construction is well
Export of materials,
(service) concepts and
projects (e.g. combining
building and education),
know-how, wooden
multi-storey buildings
Value-added materials
have a higher proportion
of exports than projects
T: Increased exports to
China and Africa
Export of value-added
materials and projects
T: China
D: Customers and society
are familiar with wood
construction, IWC
industry is well-
Milestones reached
and additional
measures needed (A)
at Mid-term (2025)
Consumer demand has
increased for wooden
apartment buildings
Finnish companies invest in
specialization such as hybrid
construction solutions,
retrots with wood, and
providing wood-based
solutions to cities
A: Co-operation with
neighbouring countries, open
digital platform for connecting
wood construction operators
Building regulations are
increasingly harmonized
between the Nordic
countries, ideally also
between the EU countries
A: Activation of international
students for branding Finnish
wood construction for export
Export (volumes) have
increased, growth continues
Finnish WMC companies
operating internationally
Companies provide also
concept-type solutions to the
markets, not only materials
Finland exports more value-
added materials to Asia than
in 2020
Global increase in carbon
emissions provides a boost
for the IWC growth
Pilot projects have been
successfully exported,
export of concept-type
projects has increased
competence has
widened, international
students have been
involved in the business
and export
More suitable funding
instruments have been
developed that provide
opportunities to the IWC
Wood construction
projects have increased
in the domestic markets,
export of value-added
materials has increased
Increased exports
especially to Asia
The competence of
international students in
marketing and branding
of wood construction
internationally has been
tapped into
Key measures needed
presently (2020)
Co-operation between
relevant operators and
stakeholders to be
accelerated, particularly
ministries (the Ministry of
Education and Culture and the
Ministry of Environment),
construction industry
companies, education sector
and investors
Development of new business
concepts, expertise and
capacity in the IWC sector to
be accelerated
Domestic market activation,
more wood construction
projects to be initiated
Building regulations (and
implementation) to be
harmonized, at least in the
domestic market and
between municipalities,
including land use planning
Co-operation between the
Nordic countries to be
increased, e.g. in the eld of
regulation harmonizing
Co-operation between the
key players in the IWC sector
to be extended
Specic education
programmes to be launched
for building capacity
Business networks for open
communication and peer
learning to be created
Level of education in
wood construction to be
increased and widened,
including knowledge on
raw materials
Co-operation and trust
between the players in
the wood construction
sector in Finland to be
Understanding of market
specic standards in
WMC to be increased
R. Toivonen et al.
Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
growth and exports of the IWC sector, by 2030 and Table 1 describes the
key elements of each of the ve visions produced at the workshop. The
pathways from the current (2020) to 2025 and nally to 2030 have also
been described in each case. However, assessing the pace of growth, i.e.,
the volume or value growth of exports in numeric terms was challenging
and remained open. This challenge was also demonstrated in the post-
workshop responses, which included a wide range in the prospected
growth ranging between 30% and 500%, and a quote from a participant:
It is difcult to imagine the numbers. However, I assume that the in-
crease will be considerable, if we are able to add production capacity, which
at the moment is quite small.[Panellist, Research 1].
The preferred future visions created by the expert teams varied, e.g.
in terms of export products particularly the degree of emphasis on
value-added products and projects. There were also variations regarding
the type of projects or end-uses of buildings to be provided to export
markets. While the wood construction literature tends to focus on the
residential segment, the resulting visions commonly indicated various
kinds of specialty or service-related buildings as potential areas of export
growth, such as schools, kindergartens, or senior care homes.
The most attractive markets for future exports, as foreseen in the ve
visions, included the developed markets in Europe. For instance, the
Nordic countries, France, the UK and Germany were identied as
particularly interesting regions within Europe. Asia, and particularly
China, was highlighted almost unanimously. Africa was also mentioned,
but only in some of the visions.
The envisioned growth of the Finnish IWC sector, both on domestic
and export markets, was seen to incorporate building up new partner-
ships and business ecosystems, also with the construction industry in
neighbouring countries. The lack of specic industrial wood-
construction-related education was commonly noted as one of the key
challenges for accelerating growth in domestic markets, and of the
sector generally (with a similar nding emerging recently from Korho-
nen et al., 2021). The need for harmonizing product and building reg-
ulations, foremost between the Nordic countries, but also more broadly,
was clearly underlined. These changes are assessed as being necessary in
promoting growth of service-based solutions, which are designed to
meet customer needs. An example of new service-based solutions was
the concept of combing early childhood education (kindergarten care or
pre-school education services) with building solutions. The preferred
vision (largely shared by the all teams) was that wood products might
play an increasingly facilitative role in providing more intangible and
broader benets (such as sustainability) than mere buildings or renew-
able building materials (see also H¨
ayrinen et al., 2020).
The workshop visions also highlighted that it would be necessary to
create growth in the domestic market rst, which already requires
several of the development actions identied necessary for export
growth. The results also underlined how it is critical for the partners in
the Finnish IWC industry to nd new non-wood construction industry
partners to build competitive and capable business ecosystems (e.g.,
industrial operators from other sectors, builders, designers and others in
Table 2
Summary of the visioned future (2030) of IWC exports from Finland, and the actions needed to reach the envisioned state from current towards 2030, as viewed by the
expert panel.
Key characteristics of the markets, industry
and exports at different phases
Approaches and activities needed to reach
development from one phase to the next
Co-operation and building of business
networks for growth and the development
of new business concepts
Carbon storage or emission reduction
options of WMC identied
Consumer and public interest in WMC at
initial level (climate and well-being
Domestic market activation and network building
to scale up operations
Development of standards and regulations
Attracting both large and small companies to
WMC business
Harmonizing domestic (municipal) land-use
planning and city-planning regarding WMC
Activation of ministries, the education sector
Creating entirely novel business networks to support the
development of service-solutions based on wood materials
Encourage large Finnish cities to take up wood building
Education programmes to increase the expertise in the WMC
Clear growth of volume occurring in the
domestic market
Industry has shifted from pilot phase to
operating at an industrial scale
Increased consumer demand for WMC/IWC
products domestically and in the export
A system for assessing Carbon
sequestration/storage of WMC solutions in
New models for co-operation with neighbouring
Open digital platforms
Methods for calculating Carbon storage/
sequestration in wood buildings
Harmonized building regulations, at least between
the Nordic countries, and ideally within the EU
Open, harmonized standards for products
(systems) of WMC
Value-added materials exported in larger volumes to Asia
Branding of WMC, especially to the Asian markets
Building well-functioning WMC ecosystems, several of these
active and operational
Making use of international students to support brand and
concept building suitable for export markets
Clearly more developed industry and
higher exports value c.f. previous stage
Value-added products further developed
Export of:
Know-how and services (solutions)
Projects integrating materials or modules
Wooden buildings as solutions to city
Customer insights well incorporated in the design
of buildings and in the projects
Flexibility in the design of buildings based on
customer preferences
Speed of the construction has increased
considerably (WMC) and reached competitive
BAU level in the general construction sector
Export of service projects: Schools and kindergartens
combined with pedagogical or educational systems, care
buildings, e.g. elderly peoples homes and hospitals
Multi-story residential buildings as an export concept
Value-added products, modules and materials
Future export
Asia/China - large growth market and growth-economy, growing environmental emphasis
The Nordic countries - well-known markets with a wood building culture, similar cultures to Finland, geographical closeness, well-developed economies
Germany / the EU countries - culture to build with wood in some regions / overall emphasis on environment, well-developed economies
Japan environmental awareness, exports of value-added materials from Finland exists, ageing population and need for service buildings
Russia export of log houses from Finland, possible interest in other wood construction concepts
R. Toivonen et al.
Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
service business, such as education experts). Overall, shifting towards
new business ecosystems and inclusion of new actors characterizes the
future vision for the wood products and related solutions for wood
construction industries.
Increasing the competitiveness of industrial wood products and the
business was underlined as a necessary step for future export market
growth. This is based on improving cost efciency and the ability to
respond to industrial clients but also to consumer needs. This presumes
shifting to industrial-scale operations in production. The results indi-
cated an overall need to broaden the education and expertise needed in
the wood products industry, echoing the results by Korhonen et al.
(2021). Table 2 combines the ve future visions and pathways described
in Table 1, followed by a more nuanced description of the actions
needed for market development, as well as points out the identied key
All the visions considered that Finnish wood products and the wood
construction industry has potential and should target international
market growth. Climate benets, particularly the ability of wood to
provide carbon storage, and overall environmental and health issues
were identied as important drivers for growth of the use of wood in
construction, particularly in the urban contexts. The challenges slowing
down growth were identied similarly in the visions: the lack of an
educational base and thus skilled people in the sector currently, the
absence of harmonized standards, and impetus for competition rather
than partnerships by the Finnish actors.
How about the discussed measures to reach the envisioned devel-
opment paths? Domestic market uptake of IWC was clearly presented as
the rst and necessary stage for export growth in the visions, and it was
also considered possible during the next ve years. However, strong
development of educational capacities was considered as a necessary
step regarding the growth of exports. Building stronger networks and co-
operation between countries, particularly Finland, the other Nordic and
Central European countries, were considered to be a promising way to
achieve a broader scope of know-how and international market access
(also, e.g., Hietala et al., 2019).
Digital communication and networking platforms were considered to
be important to facilitate a new kind of business collaboration, for
instance between industrial and service business actors. For example,
establishing open digital platforms were considered important for
sharing knowledge on themes such as building systems, and for the
development of common building standards, or to avoid multiplying
mistakes in trial and pilot phases. Some of the workshop teams
mentioned that harmonizing standards within the Nordic countries
would be benecial for the business and export growth. This harmoni-
zation will need to have advanced considerably by 2025 in order to
reach the future visions in 2030.
Regarding the policy measures to accelerate the pathways leading to
the 2030 visions, the view that government bodies, particularly relevant
ministries needed co-ordination in enhancement policy, was unani-
mously shared by the ve teams. Developing the education system was
also considered crucial in each vision: gaining fresh expertise covering
themes relevant to IWC were seen necessary for enhancing the innova-
tiveness of the sector and to fuel the growth of the exports. Launching
additional policy programmes to enhance wood construction were also
indicated, e.g. through developing common standards and facilitating
changes in the building regulations in Finland. Furthermore, harmoni-
zation of the practices of the zoning in the Finnish municipalities was
suggested as one option to enhance the growth of domestic wood con-
struction market, in line with L¨
ahtinen et al. (2019). As examples of
other tangible activities, several visions included the idea of integration
of international students and the use of their potential in developing
understanding of export markets and to activate marketing would be a
new opportunity to explore.
All the visions included improved communication to be a pre-
requisite for more efcient co-operation within the IWC sector. On the
other hand, improved cultural and country-specic know-how of the
potential export countries, knowledge of the housing and planning
concepts, and better understanding of the customer segments were
identied as immediate targets for accelerating WMC-related exports.
4.2. Potential export products and markets for the Finnish IWC sector
The future visions resulting from the backcasting workshop varied
regarding which products and services were foreseen to dominate ex-
ports in 2030, and in which specic markets. Thus, the identication of
interesting markets was combined with identifying both the promising
(new) products and services and the underlying varying demand factors.
However, all the visions included the idea of shifting towards more
value-added and knowledge-incorporating products and services. This
implies that the degree of processing within the Finnish IWC sector
should increase by 2030, which would then be reected in export value.
At its extreme form, the envisioned future exports mainly incorpo-
rated wood construction projects that facilitate the provision of services.
For instance, these services could include (early) childhood education
services, other education services or senior care. The envisioned service
concepts could thus incorporate both building facilities and the core
services accommodated by the buildings. Construction projects could
incorporate design or other know-how in combination with wood-based
materials, and even the actual construction service of the buildings.
Some teams drew a growth vision for 2030 in which wood products and
materials would be a major proportion of the exports. The following
comments were collected from the pre-workshop questionnaire and
demonstrate variations in the expert views.
[Exports will be] Know-how and materials. Construction is local.[-
Panellist, Producer of Wood Modules].
It is not sustainable to achieve the export of construction projects,
because the quality of construction is so low in Finland.[Panellist, Ofcer,
public sector].
The development of the export of know-how, solutions and innovation
activity. Increase of degree of processing in the products: prefabricated ele-
ments and modules for export.Panellist, Wood Construction/Product
Company 2].
When identifying potential export growth products, schools and
kindergartens were frequently mentioned throughout the process. Res-
idential multi-storey wood construction was also mentioned by several
expert panel teams as one of the promising applications. The data used
in this study could unfortunately not address the applications in more
detail, e.g. the type of structural systems or choice of wood-based (or
hybrid) materials.
Interestingly, the ageing population was not considered to be a
hindrance for IWC market development in Europe, but in some teams,
this was even seen as establishing a positive demand factor. This was
reasoned on the one hand through the anticipated need for new specialty
service buildings and elderly homes, and their positive environmental/
climate mitigation impacts, and on the other hand by consumers
increasing awareness of environmental and climate issues. The potential
for future export growth was also considered within solutions to special
situations or regions, such as housing solutions for seismically active
regions. The following comments are examples from the pre-
questionnaire responses
Care buildings, the population is ageing in all developed countries.[-
Panellist, Promotional Organization 2].
Construction after catastrophes, permanent, transferable, cosy and
adjustable solutions.[Panellist, Architecture Sector 1].
The most interesting future export regions for IWC sector products,
as identied in the backcasting workshop, varied to some degree.
However, China was mentioned by all teams as an attractive market.
Reasoning for considering the Chinese markets included the large size of
the market, urbanization and the growing middle-class with assumed
growing environmental awareness. The other Nordic countries, with a
similar culture, traditions of building with wood (in most countries), and
geographical proximity, were considered to have the potential to grow
R. Toivonen et al.
Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
as export markets for the Finnish IWC sector. Europe in general and
particularly Central Europe (e.g. Germany, France), and the UK by some
teams, were assessed as potential market areas for growing exports. The
reasons included growing environmental and climate concerns, on-
going urbanization, and in some countries, a strong tradition of build-
ing with wood.
Some markets were assessed as having potential only in one of the
visions. Geographical proximity, and the tradition of building with
wood, were mentioned as characteristics making Russia a potentially
attractive export region. In addition to China, some other Asian counties
were identied as interesting, such as Japan, or India. The reasons were
the high-volume growth potential of the markets, and in some areas,
increasing environmental awareness, or tradition in wood building.
However, varying construction standards, regulations and building
culture were identied as being likely to remain challenges for export
market growth generally, as elaborated by some panellists in the post-
workshop survey:
China is a huge market from which a tiny small block can be signicant.
Furthermore, the green politics in control.[Panellist, Ofcial, Public
sector 1].
Growing a wood construction culture and environmental awareness in
Europe (for instance Germany and France)[Panellist, Wood Con-
struction/Product Company 2].
The need for apartments in an ecological way, speed is an advantage due
to the shortage of labour Eastern Europe and developing countries globally.
[Panellist, Wood Construction/Product Company 3].
5. Discussion
The aim of this backcasting study was to explore preferred visions on
the development of the industrial wood construction sector and partic-
ularly its exports by 2030 in the case of Finland. However, the authors
recognize that it would have been possible to combine backcasting
approach with other foresight methodologies (e.g. Mont et al., 2014),
such as using Delphi panels or exploratory scenarios (see e.g. Zimmer-
mann et al., 2012). From the methodological perspective, e.g. B¨
et al. (2006) and Burt and van der Heijden (2003) state that futures
studies are mainly based on a qualitative approach with a focus on
complex or novel topics lacking explicit data, whereas in the forest
sector, the quantitative scenario studies have been more predominant
(see e.g. Sjølie et al., 2016). The openness of a participatory backcasting
approach chosen should sufciently safeguard reliability and validity of
the data, particularly when the panellists had solid expertise in the
sector, its markets and the terminology used. The nal composition of
participants was representative in terms of the required, specic area of
expertise focusing on WMC exports.
More precisely, this backcasting study drew insights from a panel of
35 Finnish IWC sector experts. In the backcasting process, future visions
of wood industry exports and the development paths from 2020 to 2030
were produced through the foresight workshop and complemented with
participant responses before and after the workshop. The international
market selection (IMS) approach, and more precisely, the IMS process
model presented by Brewer (2001), was employed to guide the selection
of key elements to be assessed. In our opinion, there is indication that the
data collected were likely to cover the phenomena related with the
research themes adequately, since no new issues were brought up during
the third round of data collection (the post backcasting workshop sur-
vey). The results are also logically based on earlier research (e.g. Top-
pinen et al., 2019) and aligned with the conceptual background of IMS.
It should be noted that although a single-country qualitative back-
casting study cannot be directly transferred to other countries, we may
assume that similar demand-side characteristics could show up if a
similar approach was implemented in other countries especially those in
the Nordic area. The results may also provide interesting implications
for other countries, particularly in northern Europe (e.g. Sweden, Nor-
way), regarding lucrative export market areas and segments, even
though the results should not be generalized as such. However, in
Sweden the focus may be even more strongly on the domestic market
due to its general growth trend.
Based on the resulting visions of the Finnish IWC sector exports in
2030, the expert views could foresee growth in the Finnish industrial
wood construction sector and its exports by 2030. However, there was
variation in the envisioned composition of export portfolios by 2030, as
well as the potentially attractive market areas. In other words, identi-
fying and assessing potential future export markets includes not only
geographical markets as in the case of traditional IMS approach, but also
identifying potential user/client segments for new products/services. In
summary, the envisioned future was geared towards increasing value-
added products and materials, and accordingly towards increasing ex-
ports of know-how and services in addition to materials and products. A
shared assessment was that the domestic market needs to develop and
grow rst, importantly serving as a test bed for the new products and
services. The domestic market is also an important platform for devel-
oping necessary new business models and partnerships for new product
and service concepts.
In terms of geographic regions for future exports, Asia, the Nordic
countries (especially Sweden and Norway), Central European countries
(France, Germany), and the UK were seen as having growth potential. In
Asia, China was particularly considered to be an interesting potential
export market by the backcasting expert teams. The reasons include the
large volume and the continuing growth trends of the market, rising
environmental awareness, an increasingly-wealthy middle class, and
rising urbanization.
On the other hand, construction and the overall culture are similar in
Finland and in the other Nordic countries, along with the benet of
being geographically closer. Even though the Nordic countries are
relative low in population and small regarding the volume of the con-
struction market, the backcasting panel experts shared the assessment
that the culture of industrial wood construction, and high acceptance of
wood construction in society, were important characteristics of an
interesting export market area. This is in accordance with the literature
on wood products and construction markets (Hurmekoski et al., 2015;
Rebane and Reihan, 2016; Markstr¨
om et al., 2019). This is also the case
when the panel results identied highly-populated and wealthy coun-
tries as interesting (Hurmekoski et al., 2015). Rising (or already high)
environmental awareness was considered to be a particularly important
characteristic for an interesting export area, which supports the
assumption of sustainable bioeconomy being a key driver for industrial
wood construction and WMC (e.g., Toppinen et al., 2018). For this
reason, Europe was considered to be interesting and a potential region
for export growth despite the stagnating population growth and ageing
Interestingly, the results from the backcasting process indicated
more opportunities than threats connected with countries having an
ageing population. Most likely such a result might not have been
received if the study had been based on analysis of statistics or struc-
tured surveys. Generally, the backcasting procedure resulted in identi-
fying a number of lucrative future export regions, such as countries
where cultural, political and economic characteristics are signicant
and there are growth expectations in the market volume due to
geographic location, industrial structure or other factors like de-
mographics or level of education. Lack of resources in marketing and
brand-building were also identied as a challenge for the growth of the
sector, in line with the results by Hietala et al. (2019).
The policy measures identied as being required to reach the envi-
sioned future exports include harmonizing domestic land-use and con-
struction regulations rst, and then international, at least at the Nordic
or EU levels. Harmonizing standards were also underlined, even though
it is not necessary an issue for public policies. A third important measure
identied by the experts was developing the education base, which is
R. Toivonen et al.
Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
expected to lead towards an increase of competence and know-how in
the sector. The consensus was that the domestic market needed to grow
and develop rst, and only based on this experience and new partner-
ships would exports grow.
Several of the measures identied have been considered to be
important for the growth of the WMC sector and wood industry in
previous research focusing on Finland (e.g., Hurmekoski et al., 2018;
Toppinen et al., 2019). Limited availability of well-educated experts and
professionals has been highlighted in previous research as one of the
more important factors inuencing the development of the wood con-
struction sector (Hurmekoski et al., 2018; Toppinen et al., 2019).
Interestingly, the potential for utilizing international students to open up
an understanding of export markets or building the capacity base
quickly was highlighted by several expert teams.
The international market selection (IMS) approach, and the process
model presented by Brewer (2001) were utilized to create a set of key
elements for systematically assessing the attractiveness of export mar-
kets for guiding the backcasting data collection. The IMS approach was
developed to capture rm-level decision making, while our study was
based on an industry sector level and focused on new or innovative
products with immature markets. However, the IMS approach supported
the backcasting data-collection and procedure design appropriately,
while we utilized the IMS process model as a guideline on a sector-level
export market potential assessment. The IMS approach has been
designed into well-established products while in the case of assessing
potential future export market development of newly designed products
having the status of immature niche markets, the approach of viewing
market segments in combination with market areas seems more relevant
(e.g., Papadopoulos and Martin, 2011). Firm-level market investigation
in the case of new innovative products with a niche market position
remains an interesting area for future research. For example, in con-
struction industries, company-level path dependencies can slow down
the possibility to adopt new industrial building technologies (Stehn
et al., 2020). In addition, our results indicate emerging markets
deserving growing attention in future IMS research, as suggested by
Sakarya et al. (2007) more than a decade ago.
Overall, several specialty service buildings were identied as inter-
esting exports opportunities, along with WMC residential buildings, or
materials or modules needed in construction. Issues that may not have
been brought up previously regarding the development agenda of the
wood industry include completely new business concepts for exports,
such as combining early education services or care services and tailor-
made buildings. In this respect, the method of backcasting may have
opened up new and non-traditional solutions to facilitate a positive
market development for the wood industry. It is important to note that
such new (export) concepts will require new business partnerships and
ecosystems that cross sectoral boundaries. Overall, new business net-
works, partnerships and digital communication were strongly under-
lined in this study, compared with earlier research.
Considering the complexity of the research topic and limited
knowledge on some issues, the results of this study need to be treated
with caution, as in any qualitative study. A key challenge for this study
was the focus on identifying and assessing potential future development
pathways for products and services that are still in a niche in the con-
struction sector. The opportunity for context-related bias has been
diminished by focusing the data collection on Finnish experts with a
solid background in the wood construction sector. However, this selec-
tion criterion also means that the views do not necessarily represent
those of the construction industry as a whole, and the representatives of
wood industry and academic community dominated the sample. Similar
challenges have been documented in an expert workshop based study by
Korhonen et al. (2021), focusing on wood construction, packaging and
biorenery value networks. It also seemed easier for the experts to
create an understanding of future visions than specify the pathways to
get there and by what measures, a similar nding to that of Sandstr¨
et al. (2020). Finally, the allocated time for building visions was a single
foresight workshop, and therefore time limitations could be a limiting
factor to building sufciently in-depth visions or the description of the
measures needed to facilitate the development path-way.
6. Conclusions
The results of this study suggest that the backcasting method and
combining it with the IMS approach may be appropriate for foresight
analysis in such a multi-dimensional and complex case as future market
development of industrial wood construction products. The resulting
visions by ve expert teams differed from one another in terms of export
portfolios, varying from emphasis on more traditional value-added
wood products to service-based solutions. Overall, the resulting vi-
sions from the backcasting process anticipated IWC growth. However,
the envisioned growth presumes major changes within the domestic IWC
sector, and a shift towards more value-added products and combining
products with service elements. This more intense collaboration calls for
developing not only products but also business ecosystems. Domestic
market support in building up competencies and experience is crucially
needed to fuel the exports.
Still, using richer data (e.g. more comprehensive range of building
experts) and applying the IMS approach in the context of more product-
specic cases would be important in the future research. In the future, a
systematic analysis of the future export market selection in the case of
more specied new products/services and rm-level approach would be
interesting, complementing the sector-level foresight focus highlighted
in this study. More comprehensive research on potential buyer segments
would be also an avenue for future research, especially since the results
of this study indicated variations in terms of underlying demand drivers
in the various potential market areas.
Declaration of Competing Interest
We declare no conict of interest.
This paper was produced under the WoodVision 2025 (2017-2019)
research project implemented at the Department of Forest Sciences,
University of Helsinki. The authors are grateful for the funding provided
by Mets¨
amiesten S¨
o Foundation, Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry (Finland), and Central Union of Agricultural Producers and
Forest Owners (MTK). We would also like to thank all the informants for
their valuable contributions, and Editor and the two anonymous re-
viewers of the journal for their valuable and constructive comments for
the development of this paper.
Appendix 1: Table of background expert interviews
Organization type Method Duration (min) Title/ position
Construction Group Face to face 59 Manager
Wood Manufacturing Company Phone 32 Director
Real Estate Developer Face to face 45 CEO
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Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
Appendix 2: Questionnaire themes
Questionnaire for thematic interviews:
1. What challenges have you faced in the industrial wood construction markets in Finland?
2. Which matters lead to competitiveness in the planning of wood construction buildings?
3. How do you see that industrial wood construction markets have developed in the last ten years in Finland?
4. How do you see that the WMC markets will change in the next ten years?
5. What came to mind concerning the export of wood construction??
6. What will be exported from Finland (wood products, know-how, value-added materials) in 2025 or 2030?
7. What is needed for Finland to become an exporter of WMC in 2025/2030?
8. Where will the growth opportunities for Finnish industrial wood construction be in 2025 or 2030?
9. Who are the buyers of WMC in export markets now, and who will be in the future (2030)?
10. Which actors or networks are needed to export WMC?
11. What exports of WMC are we likely to see from Finland in 2030?
The Backcasting Panel Questionnaires:
1. Pre-backcasting workshop panel survey
*WMC =Wooden Multi-storey Construction, meaning two oors or more, with either wood frames or hybrid wood elements and materials
(1) What should Finland try to achieve in industrial wood construction exports in 2030, in the export of materials (like CLT), in know-how or
construction projects?
(2) Which are the more promising export countries for industrial wood construction products/projects/know-how from Finland in 2030?
(3) In which entities do you see the greatest potential for wood construction exports in 2030?
2. Post Backcasting Workshop - Panel Survey
(1) Which three countries will be the most signicant export countries for export of industrial wood construction and its value chain in 2030?
(2) Why do these countries have the greatest market potential? Analyse this by country. How much would the export value of value-added ma-
terials (CLT and LVL etc.) increase by percent between 2020 and 2030 in ideal conditions?
(3) How much will the percentage export value of projects increase between 2020 and 2030 in ideal conditions? Which questions/themes should
arise or be studied related to wood construction exports in the future?
(4) In your opinion, which questions/themes should be brought up in future research on industrial construction of wooden houses and on the
favourable development of their exports?
The Backcasting Panel - Thematic questions for directing the backcasting panel workshop process.
1. 2030 - Creating the vision
The group created the vision of desired prospects of industrial wood construction exports in 2030, describing the desired stage by following
1. Which of the following entities are exported most by value?
Value added materials (CLT, LVL etc.)
Entire industrial wood buildings (projects)
Half-nished solutions (for instance, modules, large panels)
Know-how/service of industrial wood construction?
2. Which of these values will have increased the most between 2020 and 2030? Why these?
3. What are three main entities for exporting industrial wood construction? And why these?
Service buildings (school, kindergartens, hospitals)
multi-storey buildings (for residents and companies)
one-family houses
culture/sports etc.
other, like like catastrophe objects
4. Which countries will be the ve most signicant export countries for export of industrial wood construction in 2030? And why these (briey)
Crystallize the vision in one sentence or motto.
2. Starting point
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Forest Policy and Economics 128 (2021) 102480
Create the picture of actions needed in the starting point (2019/2020) to reach the 2030 vision.
Which are the most important actions and changes in methods, which is needed to reach the 2030 vision?
for instance, new co-operation models
actions in private and public sectors
How are the main actors related to these? List the actors and the actions.
Which are the competitive factors for the companies at the starting point?
3. Status in 2025 (intermediate stopping point)
The group created a picture of the status of exports in industrial wood construction in 2025
1. Which of the following entities will be exported the most by value?
Value added materials (CLT, LVL etc.)
Entire industrial wood buildings (projects)
Half-nished solutions (for instance, modules, large panels)
Know-how/service of industrial wood construction?
2. Which three entities for export of industrial wood construction will be the most noteable? And why these?
Service buildings (school, kindergartens, hospitals)
Multi-story buildings (for residents and companies)
one-family houses
culture/sports etc.
other, like catastrophe objects
3. Which are the ve most signicant export countries for export of industrial wood construction in 2030? And why these (briey)
The group creates the picture of actions needed in the intermediate stopping point to reach the ideal prospect in 2030
Which actions and changes in methods will be the most important, which will be needed to reach the 2030 vision?
for instance, new co-operation models
actions in the private and public sectors
How are the main actors related to these? List the actors and the actions.
What are the competitive factors for the companies at the starting point?
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... In turn, the risk of higher cost led to (re)selection of incumbent multistory construction technologies (i.e., concrete multistory construction). Several studies have corroborated and commented extensively on similar sets of barriers discussed by the key informants (see e.g., Aaltonen et al., 2021;Ruuska and Häkkinen, 2016;Hurmekoski et al., 2015Hurmekoski et al., , 2018Lazarevic et al., 2020;Toppinen et al., 2018aToppinen et al., , 2018bToppinen et al., , 2019aToppinen et al., , 2019bToivonen et al., 2021a;Vihemaki et al., 2019). Because this dissertation research is concerned with municipalities, I will not comment on these aforementioned barriers further. ...
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For the past 25 years, the Finnish state has supported the diffusion of wooden multistory construction into the construction sector. Given the socio-cultural and economic value of Finland’s forest sector, there is precedent to do so. Nonetheless, wooden multistory construction remains a niche construction practice in its formative phase. This dissertation researches the diffusion of wooden multistory construction by analyzing perceptions from municipal civil servants tasked with overseeing land use planning in Finland. Despite being gatekeepers of local construction activities, their perceptions towards wooden multistory construction are understudied. To access these perceptions, this research applies the theory of planned behavior. At the root of this theory lies the notion that beliefs underpin human action. Specifically, this dissertation research identifies (Article I) and operationalizes (Article II-III) the attitudes and beliefs that municipal civil servants hold towards wooden multistory construction. The results are distilled into three empirical accounts. Why not wood? (Article I) reframes elicited beliefs as barriers and benefits to wooden multistory construction. Benefits include a variety of holistic topics ranging from improving the lifestyles of citizens and supporting local wood-based businesses, to facilitating aspects of building construction. On the other hand, multiple barriers coalesce to form a risky and costly environment that results in project aversion. Wood versus concrete (Article II) analyzes how outcomes of implementing wooden multistory buildings are relativized against concrete multistory buildings. In large part, wooden multistory buildings are believed to possess several superior qualities (e.g., environmental performance, economic development outcomes). Nevertheless, apprehensions persist (e.g., they are more expensive to build and maintain, they are more susceptible to fire). Background experiences, especially occupational profession, play a key role in shaping several beliefs. Planning for wood (Article III) studies the relationship between how beliefs (i.e., environmental performance, economic development, cost-related attributes, technical qualities) form attitudes towards wooden multistory buildings. The prioritizations of beliefs vary according to occupational profession. Planning practitioners form attitudes holistically, based on the building’s environmental performance, technical qualities, and economic development outcomes. Other administrators form attitudes primarily based on the project’s economic development outcomes and technical qualities. Ultimately, municipal civil servants appear receptive towards implementing wooden multistory buildings in their municipalities, but this receptiveness hinges on project outcomes and the “societal goods” prioritized by the individual respondent. Even if wooden multistory buildings are perceived to possess superior qualities (e.g., environmental performance), these qualities may not strongly impact an individual’s attitude towards favoring the project. Different prioritizations among municipal civil servants might lead to planning tensions within the municipal administration, but it remains to be seen how these tensions enable (or hinder) wooden multistory construction diffusion.
... Although utilizing qualitative foresight activities in the FBS is not entirely lacking for the business and policy purposes (see, e.g., Hansen et al., 2021;Kunttu et al., 2021;Luhas et al., 2021;Näyhä et al., 2015;Sandström et al., 2020;Toivonen et al., 2021) to our knowledge there is no systematic review available on the extent of and how foresight, with a qualitative approach emphasis, has been used in the context of the FBS. This creates a clear knowledge gap, as the forest-based sector has been argued to be too focused on managing acute problems instead of considering the long-term future (Nilsson, 2015), many of issues that are sensitive for competitiveness are emerging beyond the forest-based sector's control (Matthies et al., 2020), and the current FBS is facing challenges in understanding future generations, their values, consumption habits and needs (Näyhä, 2020b). ...
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The forest-based sector is facing one the greatest transitions in its history in the face of global megatrends. Globalization, sustainability challenges and the ICT sector have put the world in a new light. Whereas some of the recent developments have resulted in challenges for the traditional forest industry, many positive expectations and opportunities are also seen to arise in the form of the transition to a sustainable bio-economy. However, to be able to fully seize the opportunity, the industry has to navigate through contingency where preparedness can have a major impact. Foresight as a strategic approach can help to prepare and sensitize decision-makers to be prepared for the future. Foresight is a process aimed at understanding the various and alternative developments of the future better. In this review, we aim to find out what the state-of-the-art of qualitative foresight in the context of forest-based sector is. Forest sector foresight remains a nascent stream in peer-reviewed literature despite the small increase in articles since 2010. Foresight has been applied relatively evenly across the sub-sectors, attention having been predominantly on adaptive approaches. Foresight studies could be classified based on their objectives and types of output into three main categories: Identifying Drivers and Trends, Management of Change and Visioning. Notably, almost all the scientific foresight literature deals with sectoral level, and lacks organisational points of view. Foresight could also provide an opportunity to include stakeholder engagement beyond business-as-usual, which seems to remain currently relatively marginal. The findings suggests that foresight in the forest sector is not entirely novel, but still developing. Many opportunities to fully capture the potential lie ahead and micro level perspectives could be enhanced in the literature.
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Timber construction is a contemporary solution where sales are performed through in-store trade. Timber house e-commerce may stimulate global markets, and in times of intense remote routines, it is useful to improve the performance of the wood and construction sectors. Timber housing producers and dealers are the research object under analysis to study the electronic market of this Brazilian sector on Instagram®. With just over four hundred companies, nearly 80% of this sector already utilizes this virtual social network. We validated the outcomes through a significant sampling of all 315 companies with corporate profiles to identify their competences, goals, and failures. The profiles prioritize the elucidation of products and basic features, not yet being ready for the virtual sales of timber houses. The study makes it clear that our results typify a sector marked by a developing electronic market. Inserting a description of product prices and detailed specifications may change this status. From failures and competences, a classification for social profiles was proposed to measure the progress and virtual participation of each individual.
In recent years, wood has received increased interest in Europe as a multi-storey building material. The trend is driven by the recognition that wood, as an environment friendly material, can contribute bioeconomy development and the achievement of sustainable development goals. In Lithuania, multi-storey wood-based building is still at the level of policy and political discussions. Therefore, the presented research focuses on quantification and comparison of the sustainability impacts of both wood- and concrete-based building materials value chains and provides applied scientific knowledge relevant to decision makers and in this way contributes to mitigation of the climate change. In detail, study covers the production value chain – from raw material extraction to manufacturing using the same method, while documenting and assessing the material sourcing stages transparently and consistently. In our study glue laminated timber and sawn timber building materials represented renewable material value chains, while site-cast concrete and precast reinforced concrete building materials represented non-renewable materials value chains. In discussion with study partners in the BenchValue project and during a project stakeholder workshop, twelve environmental, social and economic indicators were selected to perform the sustainability impact assessment of selected building materials. Building materials were compared by using a decision support tool ToSIA. The relevant data was gathered from local, well-known companies in the national and international arena. Our results revealed that glue laminated timber and sawn timber value chains compared to site-cast concrete and precast reinforced concrete value chains have more positive sustainability impacts. This is especially true when analysing environmental indicators: GHG emissions, Energy use, Generation of wastes and Water use. Analyses also revealed more positive socio-economic impacts of wood-based building materials. The socio-economic advantage of wood could increase competitiveness of the regions and contributes to their sustainable development. Our paper is in line with the applied research. Since it is a case study, the presented results are country specific, because the estimation of indicators was done by applying local data. The presented research is relevant to policy experts and decision makers in the context of the reduction of CO2 emissions. Also, this paper is relevant to the companies and architects who want to build and compare various building materials. Partially, results of this paper could be applied in other countries with comparable to Lithuania economic development level, having in mind the possible shortcomings already highlighted.
Free access up to february 2022 at: The forest-based sector is expected to play an important role in the economic transformation to a sustainable circular bioeconomy. Several countries have formulated policies and strategies with an aim to speed up this process. A range of possibilities of using forests and forest biomass exists in this: within the traditional industries, in replacing non-renewable or otherwise unsustainable materials, or in providing completely new products and services. However, the competition among the alternative uses is expected to intensify in the future when the resources are becoming scarcer due to growing consumption as such and due to environmental and social constraints on land use. Consequently, in order to consider the development of the forest-based sector as a central part of the bioeconomy, the analyses need to consider both traditional and emerging uses of wood and forests, while accounting for the resource availability. In this context, it is useful to investigate and quantify market supply and demand potentials, trade-offs, sectoral impacts, the role of policies and actions catalysing the economic transformation, as well as the related uncertainties. This special issue includes model-based or other quantitative analyses on market and policy driven possibilities and impacts related to a shift to forest bioeconomy on local, national or global scales. Special focus is set on the markets for emerging and new products and changing production portfolios in the forest-based sector. In addition, the issue includes analyses addressing the role of public and private actions and mechanisms that support or enable a shift from a business as usual path to the sustainable bioeconomy.
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Wood as a renewable construction material presents positive human health, well-being and sustainability-related features. Several studies have indicated its lower carbon footprint compared to the main alternative construction materials and its physiological and psychological characteristics have positive impacts on human health. The objective of this study is to investigate how young adults perceive the health, well-being and sustainability impacts of wooden interior materials. The findings from the four focus groups indicate that generally the image of wooden materials is positive although some concerns were identified. Further, wood as an interior material is perceived to have mainly positive psychological impacts on human health and well-being. From a sustainability perspective, participants recognized both negative and positive impacts of wooden materials mainly relating to environmental sustainability. Findings also revealed that although participants appreciate health and sustainability in the contexts of housing and particularly interior materials, still the materials' appearance and the financial situation of young participants' households dictate their criteria for choosing housing. The study results suggest that positive health impacts of wood, as well as its broader sustainability impacts, should be better acknowledged and promoted more broadly in society. This could result in greater appreciation towards wood and wooden materials among consumers. ARTICLE HISTORY
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Purpose To further the understanding of industrialised house building (IHB) from a temporal, emergent corporate-ability perspective, this study aims to trace the build-up of corporate assets in an IHB company over time. The research draws on dynamic capabilities, acknowledging not only what assets the company have developed and currently are exploiting, but also how these assets were develop and managed (i.e. enhanced, combined, protected and potentially reconfigured) to sustain long-term competitiveness. Design/methodology/approach A case study design was used to form a narrative that covers the evolution of an IHB company over a 25-year period. Corporate archival material, analysis of original data from a large number of research studies during 1993-2013 and retrospective reflections of owners and managers, including crosschecking interpretations of archival material, developed and triangulated the narrative. Findings The study presents rich empirical findings on the build-up of corporate assets. Starting from a successive process of exploration and exploitation formation of dynamic capabilities eventually played out into an exponential dynamic capability build-up. The IHB case company displays the ability to not only continuously exploit and renew resources and competences, but also to sense, seize and reconfigure cumulative assets over time. The exponential development of dynamic capabilities resonates to literature on higher-order dynamic capabilities implying that: the accumulated and higher-order dynamic capabilities are difficult to imitate and a (any) company must possess higher-order dynamic capabilities to be able to exploit and/or take up IHB. Originality/value The study is complementing and potentially challenging frequent framings of the IHB concept. Previous research has addressed and characterised IHB mainly by encapsulating a moment in time and, thus, characteristics are momentary and represent static views on IHB. However, IHB has seen a strong development over the past 25 years, and the study reflects on this development from the perspective of one of the IHB-forerunner companies in Sweden. By exploring from a company perspective the developments, reconfiguration and capacity to develop/reconfigure over time in a changing environment, the study introduces an alternative understanding of IHB as dynamic capabilities.
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Having a home is a central part of the everyday consumer experience. In our study, we focus on Finnish homeowners who have recently bought an apartment in a multi‐family timber‐framed building. With its merits in sustainability, the number of timber buildings in less‐traditional urban applications is increasing, yet research on living in a wooden home is scarce. To fill this gap, the study analyses how homeowners perceive the wooden material before and after living in a wooden home for one year. Thus, besides the acquisition of a home, the study examines the consumers’ appropriation processes and aims to gain insight into the cultural sense‐making behind the appreciation of wooden homes. The results of this qualitative study indicate that traditions and memories related to wood affect consumers’ appreciations, for example, regarding the cosiness of a wooden home. The consumers discussed the weaknesses assigned to wood, such as fire and moisture susceptibility, yet they considered them to concern all construction materials, not only wood. After habitation for one year, the usability of the home becomes particularly relevant, including the ease with which shelves can be mounted onto the walls, enjoying the echoless soundscape, and living with clicking sounds and vibrating floors. The study suggests that the meanings of consumers’ daily experiences concerning the usability of wooden buildings are under negotiation and cannot be reduced simply into positive or negative but carry elements of both.
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Purpose of Review The two Nordic European Union countries, Finland and Sweden, have common features and similarities based on their rich forest resources and sizable sawmill industry with internationalization mainly through exports. We compared the Finnish and Swedish sawmill industries and market developments since 1990 and discussed the most eminent country and firm-level differences. In this context, we conducted an academic literature review on strategic approaches of sawmill industries in these countries and mapped the drivers of competitiveness that we could identify from the studies published between years 1990 and 2019. Recent Findings In our study, drivers of competitiveness were identified to stem dominantly from the firm-level strategic decisions and use of internal resources and capabilities, whereas the factors related to the external environment were found to be less prominent. From a methodological perspective, the use of qualitative methods has become more common towards the present date, while the use of mixed approaches is very rare. Summary Research on sawmill industry strategies is quite versatile, but more comparative studies are needed to increase understanding of the developments and state of complex sawmill business that is influenced by a myriad of internal and also external factors.
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Many studies have shown that wooden buildings in general have a lower climate impact than buildings built of conventional materials such as concrete and steel. In Sweden, however, only about 10% of the multi-dwelling buildings are built with timber frames. The goal of this empirical study is to provide a broad picture of the views of Swedish actors regarding the use of wood products in multi-storey residential buildings and suggest measures for an increased use. A questionnaire concerning the use of wood products in construction was sent out to Swedish developers, main contractors, and architects and 100 answers were received. The study shows that the views of the groups of actors differ in some respects and factors that may either facilitate or be obstacles to an increased use of wood products were identified and discussed.
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As the construction sector continues to be associated with highly energy-intensive practices leading to excessive carbon emissions, governments in many countries are promoting a shift towards greener building practices, like the use of wood in multistory construction (WMC). Meanwhile, local-government actors (e.g., municipalities) often act as important gatekeepers of urban development given their authority to oversee or approve zoning and land-use plans. Despite this fact, they are not much focused on in existing WMC research. This qualitative interview study serves to fill a gap by studying municipal civil servant perceptions regarding WMC, using Finland as a case study. Civil servants were asked to elicit their personal opinions on WMC, and what they perceived as favorable or unfavorable about using wood as a multistory construction material. Results show increasing support for WMC, and that this is due to key benefits made possible by the technical qualities of engineered wood products in emerging WMC projects. These products permit both the adoption of rapid construction practices that enhance citizens’ quality of living, and also the sourcing of local renewable building materials that support local industries. On the other hand, barriers to the use of wood were identified, such as inadequate information distribution, a limited number of WMC industry actors, and inefficient policy measures.
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In transitioning to a renewable material-based bio economy, growing public and industry interest is apparent for using wooden multistory construction (WMC) as a sustainable urban housing solution in Europe, but its business implications are not well understood. In our study, we evaluate, which internal and external factors of competitiveness are shaping the future of WMC, especially in the context of Finland and Sweden. Based on a multi-level perspective of socio-technical transitions, we conducted a three-stage dissensus-based Delphi study. The identified internal and external factors affecting the future competitiveness of the WMC business emphasize the importance of skilled architects and builders and the role of standardized building systems. Based on our results, the key aspects influencing the future competitiveness of WMC in the region are related to the development of technical infrastructure and project-based business networks, while additional changes in regulatory framework are perceived as less important. We conclude that towards 2030, the strong cognitive rules founded in the concrete-based building culture in these countries is likely to inhibit the dynamics of the socio-technical regime level. A change is also needed in the WMC business culture towards more open cross-sectoral collaboration and new business networks between different-sized players.
It is uncertain how the traditional forest sector can respond to the changing political environment, evolving markets, and global environmental problems. This study focuses on the development of forest-based bioeconomy (BE) in Finland from the perspective of three forest-based value networks (wooden multistory construction, fiber-based packaging, and biorefining) and thus breaks the tendency of siloed discussions. The study of expert opinions applies a collaborative interdisciplinary research method that combines group discussions and follow-up survey data. The results indicate that transformational regulation, proper incentives, and ways of increasing interaction at the business-consumer interface are required to support the creation of new practices and the destruction of old practices in the industry renewal.
The future of forests is a controversial issue in Sweden and elsewhere. Different stakeholder groups differ in the importance they give to roles they envision forests should have in, for example, the national economy, the protection of biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services, and in mitigating climate change. We used participatory backcasting, a solution-oriented form of scenario analysis, as a method to identify stakeholders' various views as to what constitutes a desirable future forest in Sweden. By involving key stakeholders, we wanted to explore how to broaden the scope of potential solutions to the controversial issue of forest futures by analyzing goals, measures and policy instruments in order to form a bridge between stakeholders' policy objectives, and the instruments and support tools they would like to use to implement those policies. Preferences for particular policy instruments varied considerably among the stakeholder groups. In line with the literature, our study confirms that policy instruments are not mere empty vessels, but represent particular policy ideas, objectives and outlooks, and can show how stakeholders want forests to be governed in the future.
Little is known about what the public thinks of tall wood buildings (TWBs), which are structures made primarily from wood that are at least five stories tall. Understanding end-user beliefs can help the industry address public preferences and concerns. An online panel of 502 residents in the Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, metropolitan areas showed that only 19 percent were familiar with TWBs. The largest percentages of respondents believed that, compared with concrete and steel buildings, TWBs are more aesthetically pleasing, create a positive living environment, and use materials that regrow. However, they also believed that TWBs have greater fire risk and need more maintenance. Sizable percentages of respondents said they did not know about various durability, performance, aesthetic, and environmental attributes of TWBs. There were few meaningful differences between respondents who reported being familiar and unfamiliar with TWBs, but those who were familiar evaluated TWBs slightly more positively.