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Hybrid Handshake: Interview with Jussi Björman, Director, Business Development, Construction


Can you tell briefly about your background and career within hybrid construction?

Some 10 years ago, I graduated as a structural engineer, mostly specializing in steel and concrete structures. However, for the past 11 years, I have worked for the forestry industry at Metsä Group, and currently, I am responsible for the business development of the construction sector, one of our development areas being the hybrid sandwich element. Before joining Metsä Group, I worked in an engineering office doing structural design of several hybrid construction projects, such as the expansion of the Sello mall in Espoo, Finland.  


What, in your opinion, is hybrid construction?

There are at least two different ways to define hybrid construction. One is about combining different products or materials, which could be called hybrid structures. The other way, a hybrid building, consists of components or elements made of different materials and then used in different parts of the building.

Ideally, we should always aim at using each material and item where it works best and creates an optimal outcome and the most value.  


Why has hybrid construction become so popular?

To be honest – it is not the hybrid construction itself. For example, the European Union has stated a need to reduce emissions in the construction sector, and hybrid construction happens to be quite an ideal solution to support that. Additionally, we as customers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and companies are also waking up to a new reality – they need to meet customer needs also in sustainability. Furthermore, today it is easier to get funding when ESG aspects are carefully thought out. Hybrid construction also offers a differentiation factor for the construction supply chain.  


How does hybrid construction resonate with the current megatrends?

Sustainability as a megatrend is one of the key driving forces of hybrid construction. On the other hand, urbanization and population growth are naturally connected to construction – there is a growing need to increase urban construction. Urban construction is also demanding, it needs to happen in a relatively small land plot, with minimal noise, and as fast as possible. The lightness of hybrid elements allows for smoother logistics.

Surely, there will be out-of-the-box solutions in the future, that we can’t even imagine today. Design for disassembly and transferring buildings from one location to another will most likely increase, though the standards of today do not yet support it fully. In the end, we face the fact that we use more materials than our planet can sustainably offer, and the only option is to reuse them as many times as possible.   


How do you see the future of hybrid construction?

It may become the standard way of building. Finding the optimal way of using each material and the optimal way to combine them will be essential, and undoubtedly the already existing products will find new use cases and be reused.  


What could be an alternative future scenario of hybrid construction?

The worst case could be some major challenge that we have not been able to recognize and that would turn out to be a future risk. This, however, doesn’t seem very likely, as we continuously learn from the past to improve, and today’s structures are continuously quite thoroughly tested. Thinking positively, the best-case scenario would be wide support and fast implementation of hybrid thinking, worldwide.  


Which factors speed up or slow down the development of hybrid construction?

Building hybrid buildings is yet something new, and it takes time to change people’s attitudes. Some require more proof of concept, and some are actively searching for new innovative solutions. I believe we all should be more open-minded and try new things. After all, we learn the most by trial and error.


A hybrid way of building also challenges the connection elements. How do you see their development in the future?

Currently, there are few standardized connection items for hybrid structures, and product development takes time. Today, the challenges are solved one by one as they occur, which is manual work; the connections ease and speed up the work at the site. Developing standardized connection items is challenging and requires an excellent understanding of different materials. Materials knowledge is also topical for structural designers – in the future, this will also impact education.


Can you tell about one hybrid construction project that you have participated in?

Metsä Wood has collaborated with its partners to develop hybrid sandwich wall elements suitable for multi-story, office, or industrial buildings. The project of Metsä Fibre’s new Rauma sawmill was the kickstart for the new elements, and they were used to build the log feed control building. Construction did not require vertical joint casting, sanding, or cleaning, typical for concrete wall elements, making the whole process faster. Additionally, the assembly of the 14 elements was similar to the usual concrete sandwich elements, taking only 10 hours.

 Real use cases of hybrid construction guide us forward toward a greener way of building.

 To summarize, the construction industry needs to focus on material efficiency, design for disassembly, and the circularity of the elements. This is what hybrid construction, a potential way to build in a more sustainable way, is all about.