Sylva: Prefabricated, modular mass timber elements in one kit

Mass timber is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, but the construction industry is highly risk-averse. New and innovative ways of building and green technologies have to demonstrate that engineering and regulation requirements can be met before they become mainstream. Stora Enso, in response, has introduced Sylva to address those concerns directly. Matthew Linegar, head of product management at Stora Enso, shares more.

Nanyang Technological University, Academic Building South, Asia’s largest mass engineered timber project in Singapore (Image: Steeltech Industries)

Can you explain what Sylva aims to achieve?
Matthew Linegar: Sylva is a kit of customisable prefabricated building elements manufactured from mass timber comprising walls, floors, roofs, stairs, beams and columns. Because every Sylva element is tailor-made, it is possible to build anything from multi-storey residential buildings, commercial office buildings, large industrial building and even schools.

Sylva solves six major issues in the construction industry today by: lowering the environmental impact — where the industry is responsible for 39% of all CO2 emissions, which we now know are the cause of climate change — mitigating the labour shortage, being more cost-efficient, reducing construction times, simplifying designing with wood, and boosting health and wellness for tenants or users. There are more side benefits, but these are the immediate, direct advantages.

Why develop Sylvia as a kit?
Linegar: The construction industry is changing: Labour is scarce, coordination among building trades is complex, and the demand for green construction is growing rapidly. In response, developers are seeking new ways to reduce on-site labour, shorten construction timelines, and build more sustainably. Increasingly, these developers are moving away from traditional building material suppliers and towards companies who can deliver prefabricated building elements manufactured off-site, paired with expert design and installation coordination services.

Sylva elements are lightweight and high load-bearing, and because they are easy to work with, it is possible to mix and match with existing building materials. For example, existing buildings made from reinforced concrete can often be extended with additional floors made from Sylva elements without the need to strengthen the foundations due to the lighter weight nature of wood. The kits also enable spaces to be repurposed over time. Instead of knocking down a building after it has fulfilled its purpose, it is possible to repurpose it without major renovations. When a Sylva building reaches its end of life, the wooden elements can be dismantled easily, with parts reused or recycled with minimised impact on the planet.

Developers are increasingly looking for prefabricated, modular building elements that are assembled off-site (Image: Kjell Andersson)

Can you elaborate on the entire consumption process, from ordering and manufacturing to delivering and installing Sylva on-site?
Linegar: Stora Enso connects with architects, builders, planners and various stakeholders at different entry points of the construction process. Our aim is to enable all the players to optimise the use of wood in a way that is as easy as possible for them.

We have developed building concepts for residential, industrial, office and school buildings. These concepts apply the Design for Manufacturing and Assembly method (DfMA) to align the design and delivery process for a more predictable and optimal outcome. We have also optimised them to create the best-performing, low-carbon and cost-effective building solutions based on our products from Stora Enso’s Sylva kit. As a result, you can design and build low-carbon and cost-effective buildings of all typologies and scales for a specific project’s needs.

Once the design has been determined, customers can use our digital tools and services to work out the dimensions of the walls, columns and beams before the final international foundation class (IFC)-model, or 3D model, is made. This can streamline construction efficiencies and costs because it essentially creates a virtual model with all the specific measurements of the cut-outs for windows, doors and specifications for the wood that will be visible and exposed in the building. We can tell you, for example, what is the most efficient and economical use of Sylva glue-laminated timber (glulam) beams and columns in a building.

The finalised, processed model is then sent to Stora Enso for optimisation. Contractors and architects can maintain full control from their electronic dashboard, and confirm that everything is correct before production starts. Once the order is confirmed Stora Enso cooperates with setting delivery plans and decides how different elements should be placed during transportation. We make sure that each piece arrives just-in-time.

Want to find out more? Click here to read on in Issue 1, 2023 of Wood in Architecture.