Story | 09/15/2023 11:48:32 | 4 min Read time

UPM Timber and Lunawood succeed around the world with thermally modified wood

Lunawood and UPM Timber have long collaborated to export responsible wood products to South Africa. Thermally modified Finnish wood is, due to its durability, excellently suited for hot, dry, or humid conditions.

Main image: UPM Timber and Lunawood are bringing responsibly produced, thermally modified and durable wood to South Africa. The picture is of a project by Anthrop Architects using Lunawood's thermally modified wood.

"Thermally modified wood can be exported anywhere! We can be proud of our expertise," says Maija Masalin, Vice President Customer Experience at Lunawood. About 95 per cent of Lunawood's production is exported to over 65 different markets. Lunawood exports thermally modified planed pine wood for decorative use to South Africa, alongside other products.

"In South Africa, a lot of shade extensions and pergolas are constructed. Previously, they used a lot of aluminium or other metals because there was no local wood resilient to the challenging climatic conditions available," Masalin explains.

The export of trademarked Lunawood’s ThermoWood® products to the South African market started about seven years ago through Universal Plywoods. Thermally modified pine wood has properties that make it well-suited for local outdoor and indoor projects, and it is a responsible alternative to tropical hardwood whose origin might not always be known. Local architects appreciate the responsibly sourced, PEFC-certified wood for its weather resistance and dimensional stability.

"We highlight the story of Finnish wood. It's an important competitive advantage for us to know the origin of the wood and the forest management practices," notes Masalin.

Project by Anthrop Architects using Lunawood's thermally modified wood.
UPM Timber and Lunawood have common objectives: to promote sustainably and responsibly manufactured products in various markets.
Mikko Hyvärinen

Close collaboration on responsibility

The raw material for thermally modified pine comes from UPM Timber’s Korkeakoski sawmill.

"In Lunawood's products, slow-growing, dense pine top logs are used," says UPM Timber Sales Director Mikko Hyvärinen.

The commercial partnership between UPM Timber and Lunawood has lasted for years. Hyvärinen points out that the parties share a mutual respect for wood as a raw material and a wish to promote and introduce all-encompassing responsibility to various markets. In regular collaboration meetings, not only commercial development is discussed but also new ways to make the entire value chain more responsible. 

At UPM Timber's sawmills, for example, fossil fuel has been replaced with renewable fuel, improving the sustainability of the whole chain. The potential of electric trucks as an option to reduce the carbon footprint in logistics is currently being explored.

"UPM Timber and Lunawood have common objectives: to promote sustainably and responsibly manufactured products in various markets", Hyvärinen summarises.

Transporting wood products from Finland to the other side of the world might sound strange. Does it make sense to transport wood that far?

"In South Africa, local wood often comes from plantations, or its origin is unknown. The origin of the products supplied by Lunawood is always precisely known. The wood is responsibly sourced, and forest regeneration is ensured. Local wood species are also not suitable for the thermal modification technology developed in Finland, intended for Finnish wood species such as spruce and pine," Masalin says. She continues explaining that the footprint of transportation is distributed among products. “We transport lightweight wood materials in large container ships, dividing the carbon footprint among different products. The origin and the absence of chemicals are of particular interest to architects: if the wood's natural greying is accepted and the wood isn't treated with paint, thermally modified wood is virtually chemical-free throughout its lifecycle."

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