Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group have won a competition to design multistorey, prefabricated wooden housing for Kouvola, Finland.


The E2 (Ecology + Economy) Timber Competition aims to prototype and showcase large-scale sustainable wooden construction that can be replicated worldwide.


Entitled PUU-BO, BIG's design comprises prefabricated modules that could be reconfigured to make different building typologies in different environments, from townhouses to skyscrapers.


BIG won the competition in collaboration with Pirmin Jung Engineers for Wood Constructions, AOA Anttinen Oiva Architects, Vahanen Engineers and Stora Enso.


More about BIG on Dezeen »


The information below is from BIG:


BIG (DK) + Pirmin Jung Engineers for Wood Constructions (CH) + AOA Anttinen Oiva Architects Ltd (FI) + Vahanen Engineers (FI) + Stora Enso (FI) is the winning team to design a prototype wooden construction system for a pilot project in Kouvola, Finland that will serve as a showcase for the sustainable use of timber construction worldwide.


To meet the increasingly stringent environmental requirements of Finnish industrialized construction, the E2 Ecology & Economy timber development competition aims to find a conceptual design solution for large-scale production of wooden multi-story buildings. A 15.000 m2 prefabricated wooden development in Kouvola, Finland will serve as a showcase for replicable and locally adaptable cost- and energy efficient housing. BIG’s proposal PUU-BO is today announced as one of two winning entries of the two-staged invited competition totaling 26 international proposals, which included wood construction specialists Hermann Kaufmann from Austria and wood producer Finnforest among many others.


“PUU-BO was the only proposal to truly acknowledge the aspiration of the E2 Competition: to look at the surroundings of the buildings and the spaces in between as potential opportunities for green development”, Jury, E2 (Ecology + Economy).


Wood as construction material brings a double benefit: remarkably reduced emissions in its production and fabrication and im proved energy efficiency of the buildings where it is used. Currently, only a fragment of multi-story buildings utilize timber construction in Finland, a country known for its timber production. BIG’s PUU-BO is a comprehensive prefab solution designed to be both extremely flexible and materially efficient. PUU-BO’s conception as a system based on best practices and not predefined standard elements, gives it an embodied intelligence and ensures its viability for the future. The system’s easy adaptability to a variety of building typologies and uses, opens up new possibilities for prefabricated wood systems beyond the residential market - the very same elements in the residential pilot project could be used in an office building or even a wood skyscraper with no loss in material efficiency.


“BIG’s point of direction was to design an innovative system that can fit any built environment for any type of use. Rather than developing a system based on current market demands, we wanted to make a system so flexible it can embrace as many building typologies and functionalities as possible. Instead of making the most carbon neutral system at present; we develop a system that evolves into the future. This way the system respects the ever increasing key drivers for sustainability while being competitive with other building systems”, Thomas Christoffersen, Partner-in-Charge, BIG.


A site with generous views towards public green areas and the city’s river has been specifically selected for this pilot project by the city of Kouvola. The location allows the volume of the proposed building to push from one side to the other side to integrate the park and parking along the development. BIG’s proposal follows the contours of the landscape creating semi-private pockets directly connected to the park while the height of the building is manipulated to peak towards the open areas. The pockets are surrounded by lower housing creating an intimate space where all units are connected to the ground. The areas with the best views have the most floors and the most apartments while all roofs are partially accessed by the penthouse apartments and all units at ground floor have access to private gardens to both sides.


“Le Corbusier’s DOMI-NO system was developed to industrialize construction with the new technologies of concrete structures, and improve living conditions for the many. Decades later concrete housing has become synonymous with boxy and boring. By crossbreeding state of the art building technology and wood construction PUU-BO provides endless variability with infinite renewability” Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Partner, BIG.


BIG’s E2 proposal combines a variety of housing typologies – from 8-story apartment buildings to low townhouses with a shared courtyard space. Along both sides of the building a pedestrian path connects the private gardens to parking and park. The path blends with the existing network, integrating the building with the park, river and city. Playgrounds, sports fields, and a community sauna in the river are strategically placed in order to activate the site. All activities are available to both the PUU-BO inhabitants as well as the citizens of Kouvola.


About E2

The city of Kouvola in cooperation with the Finnish Forest Industries association, the Finnish Forest Foundation, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation SITRA, KSS-Energia Oy and the Regional Council of Kymenlaakso aims at fostering new solu tions for industrial production of wooden multi-story buildings through the launch of E2 Timber Development Competition and a future Centre of Competence in Timber Construction, “Wood-Inno”. The concept competition is expected to offer energy efficient solutions which reduce the carbon foot print, and could help Finland to take leadership in the field of timber construction worldwide.


About BIG

BIG, founded in 2005 by Bjarke Ingels, is an architectural office currently involved in a large number of projects throughout Europe, Asia and North America. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark and with a newly opened office in New York, USA the office is led by six Design Partners, including Bjarke Ingels, Andreas Klok Pedersen, Finn Norkjaer, Thomas Christoffersen, Jakob Lange, David Zahle and two Management Associate Partners, Sheela Maini Sogaard and Kai-Uwe Bergmann. BIG’s architecture emerges out of a careful analysis of how contemporary life constantly evolves and changes, not least due to the influence of multicultural exchange, global economic flows and communication technologies that together require new ways of architectural and urban organization.

About Pirmin Jung

PIRMIN JUNG Ingenieure für Holzbau AG is a leading engineering specialist for multiple-storey timber constructions. For the past 15 years, Pirmin has worked closely with designers and architects, creating efficient sustainable and long-lasting wooden solutions worldwide.



Name: E2 Ecology and Economy
Program: Housing
Type: Prequalified Competition
Size: 15,000m2, 8 storey prefabricated wood construction
Client: City of Kouvola, Finland
Collaborators: AOA, Pirmin Jung Holzbauingenieur, Vahanen, Stora Enso
Location: Kouvola, Finland

Partner in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen
Project Leader: Brian Yang
Team: Krista Meskanen, Jelena Vucic, Alina Tamosiunaite, Alessandro Ronfini, Cecilia Ho, Elisha Nathoo, Sunming Lee, Long Zhuo, Mads Bjorn Christiansen

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Posted on Wednesday March 16th 2011 at 11:00 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • KURT

    This is the OPPOSITE of ecological and economical. First thing you try do for both goals is minimize the outer surface ( Hüllfläche in german , i do not the exact english expression ) of your building NOT to maximize it by randomly rotating single cubes. I am getting kind of annoyed by the BIG adaptions of average student designs.

  • Tomas Wikström

    The building as a wall – not too far from Ralph Erskine's housing project Ormen Långe (Svappavaara, Sweden, 1965) which did not become exactly what Erskine strived for. Let us hope that BIG are more successful. And have learnt a bit more about the design of dwellings since the lousy ones in 8-tallet (8 House)! http://www.dezeen.com/2010/08/20/8-house-by-big/

  • aDnyc

    I agree with Kurt. BIG always comes up new gimmicks to sell projects. Is architecture today all about gimmicks?

  • Makes me think of Moshe Safdie's habitat 67 in Montreal. http://www.habitat67.com/home.html

  • zecks

    @ aDnyc yes, it has been for some time.


    Good design, but I agree with both Kurt and Thomas. Is this a good urban design (creating wall between the town and the river)? Is this project ecological and economical, the theme of the project? What about optimization of design based on climatic conditions and reducing material use?

    • PBR

      What town? (picture 9).
      Is it economical? Maybe for the client.
      Is it ecological? Has anyone done any research on this? Judging solely by the use of a renewable building material for the construction of a dense structure that has less surface than single-family houses? Very likely.
      No revolutionary new concepts here, I would not decline if I got offered an apartment here.

  • yuc

    People who advocate building in wood say that timber structures burn but do not collapse. That is okey, but they burn so fast and so well that I cannot believe it is possible to build multi-floors in wood. Or, is it?

    • Joe

      It actually is. The surface of the wood structure will burn quickly, but the core of the beams and columns do not since not in contact with air (the burnt surfaces will act similarly to insulation and delay the process; you need oxygen for a fire). It's Actually far better than steel that will melt under influence of great heat .

  • Erik

    Back to the 70's.

  • The third image comparing the Dom-ino structure with their Puu-bo could not be more telling: no improvement whatsoever in spatial qualities since corbu!

  • Steef

    Wow Kurt, a very simple drawing could explain you that an element used here, has got exactly the same outer surface, as when you would make them straight cubes. So your point makes no sense at all. You would have been right if you would have spoken about maximizing sunlight entry, or the sloping roof structure though..

    But building ecological doesnt mean we all have to build straight slabs oriented to the sun. We have done that during the 60's and 70's, and most of these slabs are now renovated or destroyed because of the poor social conditions they created. Meaningful architecture that people will enjoy now and beyond is just as important for sustainable building as minimizing outer surface, though i am not saying that this particular project is exactly that.

  • Brian

    Funny. It's just like a project I made on 3rd year of school. http://brianbendsen.blogspot.com/2001/01/opgaven-

  • adzy

    This is the most ambitious project I have seen thus far utilizing pre-fabricated timber as a method of construction. You could pick it apart for various reasons, but the fact remains that BIG is still out there winning competitions and pushing the envelope, in this case with new methods of construction. Bravo!

  • edd

    actually the facade has lots of glass and not much timber

  • Steef

    Wow Kurt, a very simple drawing could explain you that an element used here, has got exactly the same outer surface, as when you would make them straight cubes. So your point makes no sense at all. You would have been right if you would have spoken about maximizing sunlight entry, or the sloping roof structure though..

  • KURT

    @ Steef
    since you posted your comment twice i guess you insist on humiliating yourself. First of all the elements here ARE straight cubes , so i don t really get your point. If you do not rotate these straight elements the walls floors and ceilings of each element touch each other ( except for the ones on the outside of the whole complex ) which means that there is no energy passing to the outside. By rotating the boxes each box exposes more of its walls floor and ceiling area to the outside which automatically creates a bigger amount of energy that is transferred to the exterior. So much for the ecologycs. For the economics it is even more simple: the better the ratio betweeen facade area and floor area, the cheaper you can build a square meter of floor area.
    I hope i could explain my point even without a very simple drawing.

    • so:ren

      take a better look before you start insulting others. the units are trapezoid in plan, walls touching. that's why they rotate!

  • KURT

    @ Steef it is not about the shape of the elements but about the rotation of each element my friend.

  • Yrag

    Hah! In the winter rendering above, some one from BIG clipped out Bob Dylan strolling with his girlfriend from his 2nd or 3rd album and pasted it in the bottom right!