A digital building: solutions for healthy and sustainable living

Published 26 September 2019
What if you could click a button and find out what the air quality in your home is right now? Or design your new home so well that there would be zero waste during its construction? HEAL, a joint effort between Stora Enso Wood Products and Finnish start-up Trä Group, could make it happen.

The purpose of HEAL (Healthy Affordable Living) is to co-create how buildings are designed, constructed, maintained , and recycled to enable healthy and sustainable living for all.

“The building sector produces about 450 million tonnes of waste every year in Europe alone,” says Thomas Noreila, CEO and co-founder of Trä Group. “At the same time, 84 million Europeans live in buildings that may be harmful to their health. Many more don’t know which materials their homes are built with. HEAL wants to change this.”

Bringing people together

HEAL aims to use digitalisation to help material selection and minimise waste from the construction process – physical waste but also wasted time and cost, eventually freeing up resources to make buildings more affordable and better for the environment. To do this, HEAL aims to build a collaborative open platform that brings together material suppliers such as Stora Enso but also design, construction, facility management, energy, and insurance companies. All have expertise in their own field but also challenges that could be addressed in open cooperation through HEAL. HEAL has already facilitated several workshops and research interviews with Stora Enso customers, mainly architects and wood construction companies, to gain a better understanding of relevant challenges.

“The workshops have provided good insights on how to make data more transparent from the factory to the building site and beyond, says Julia Ahvenainen who is responsible for partnerships at HEAL. “We are running similar studies with different stakeholders along the value chain to better understand the pain points of the building industry.”

The ambition is to use these insights to integrate and develop new digital tools and solutions for architects, property developers, and owners – like the ones that monitor air quality or help minimise waste.

Solutions that make a difference

Using this co-creation method, HEAL has already developed new solutions that help make the value chain more efficient and create more sustainable buildings. One tool helps with site management, another with tracking logistics, and a third with monitoring air quality. But this is only the beginning: HEAL is now looking for start-ups and partners that could bring new ideas and solutions to the table.

“With both of our backgrounds, digitalising wood construction is at the core of our cooperation with Trä Group,” says David Blomquist, Head of HEAL at Stora Enso IT and Digitalisation. “But the building value chain also uses many non-renewable materials that play an important role. If HEAL succeeds in bringing everyone together and changing the way the building sector operates, the global impacts on the industry, the environment, and human health will be huge.”

 

Virtual reality goggles in use at Seefeld pavilion

HEAL used virtual reality at the 2019 Nordic Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria, to demonstrate how digitalization could help monitor air quality, carbon footprints, and other aspects of a building.