Wood facades: undertaking weathering

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Arkkitehtuurin maisteriohjelma
Wood has always been an important building material for humankind. The technologies and applications of wood in contemporary buildings have evolved immensely in the past decades, allowing the wood to compete with concrete and steel as the main material of large building structures. Wood, when handled properly, is one of the critical materials to mitigate the impact of the building sector in the current escalating environmental crisis. It is essential to comprehend the nature of wood and its possibilities of use in construction if we want to succeed in building resilient architecture. Nevertheless, the use of wood in facades is still limited by paradigms related to its ageing materiality and architecture visualization. This study reviews weathering in wood claddings in Finland from the perspective of the architecture design process. The discussion is positioned between the subjects of wood technology, concerning wood products and treatments, and wood architecture. The framework is in wooden facades and wood building production in Helsinki, considering the challenges and limitations of using wood in the building sector. The main question guiding this study is: How does weathering contribute to the design character of a wooden facade? This research aims to promote sustainable timber in constructions, contribute knowledge and methods to understand wood weathering and reframe the expectations of the long-lasting resilient wooden facade, responding to current environmental and ethical problems in the building sector. This research is divided into three parts. Part I discusses this study’s research approach, theoretical background, motivations, and selected research methods based on qualitative evaluation and multiple case study analyses. It defines the research path and steps and contains the description and explanation of tools applied in the study case objects. The main tools used in the analysis were based on 3D models, computer simulation and site visits photo-registered by a drone and drawings. The question ‘What tools can architects use to control or predict weathering?’ frames Part I of the study. The second part of this research explores what is known about wood weathering from the perspective of the architectural design process. Part II comprises a literature review of fundamental physical and chemical aspects of wood weathering, the technologies and products applied to control weathering in wooden facades and discusses the perception of weathering in wood architecture. It addresses the question ‘What do we know about weathering in wooden facades?’ Part III is the main body of this study and unfolds the analysis over the three selected study case objects: Villa Ervi atelier, Viikki Church and Wood City Block. These buildings were selected from a building list survey made for this research, which considered potential case studies and compiled basic information about wooden-clad buildings in Finland. This part deepens into the ageing of each of the selected buildings, the cladding typology, wood materials and design strategies used by the architects to deal with wood weathering. It also contains a conclusion about the research from each case study. Part III answers two subquestions: ‘What does weathering look like in a wooden facade?’ and ‘How does the design of the facade influence the weathering process?’ The discussions and findings of this research are relevant from the perspective of the architecture design process. This study reveals that amidst the complexities of building wood architecture, architects have means and choices available to design resilient wooden claddings. When architects consider weathering as a permanent characteristic of the exposed wood material, during the design phase, the aesthetic expectations towards wood architecture are reframed and in balance with its natural process.
Heikkinen, Pekka
Thesis advisor
Kaila, Anna-Mikaela
wood architecture, wood weathering, solar radiation, 3D simulation, Villa Ervi, Viikki Church, wood city block, wind simulation
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