Vesa Ijäs is the development manager of Lahti Region Development LADEC Ltd. responsible for the Center of Expertise for Housing. He has been a deputy member of the RYM Oy Board of Directors since last year. Ijäs brings the number of doctors among the regular and deputy members to seven.
According to Ijäs, the increased focus of to SHOK enterprises on the built environment has increased the credibility of the Finnish construction and real estate sector both domestically and abroad.
– The challenge is how to make the Finnish urban structure into a development platform for international top research. The built environment is usually perceived to consist only of what we see – streets and buildings. However, the biggest business potential attainable through research is related to the experiential built environment: the social environment with its needs and services, virtual environments, as well as the dynamics of architecture and urban planning. User-orientation is the key to everything, Ijäs sums up.
“Now is the time to invest in top-level international research”
Ijäs thinks that the main task of RYM Oy is to invest in first-rate international research that can produce market-changing radical innovations. Loosely interpreting Prof. Ralf Lindberg he crystallizes the key challenge: “In a country the size of Finland, how can we allocate our scarce research resources to squeeze maximum benefits out of minimum resources.” Ijäs believes that the cleantech aspect will become increasingly important as a starting point also in built environment research.
– As we pursue international markets for wood construction products, it would be natural for the parties associated with wood construction to contribute sufficiently to allow setting up a worthwhile research program. Only one dissertation dealing with wood apartment buildings had been written before my work. The RYM research program could advance significantly the cause of wood apartment buildings both in Finland and the export markets, Ijäs believes.
In cooperation with Tekes, RYM Oy offers Finnish construction and real estate sector actors information on applicable financial instruments and partners on a silver platter. According to Ijäs, that will help many companies avoid the trouble of conducting laborious analyses.
– Less well known is probably the fact that the staff of RYM Oy does a lot of anticipation work for its shareholders by participating actively in networks and events where it is possible to influence the structures of financial instruments. That gives Finns easier access to research projects, Ijäs stresses.
Vesa Ijäs defended his dissertation at Tampere University of Technology on August 7, 2013.
His opponent was DTech Markku Karjalainen from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
The custos was Prof. Kari Salonen from the School of Architecture at Tampere University of Technology.
A wood apartment building is considered a financial risk
The core of Ijäs´ dissertation consists of interview surveys made in 2010 and 2011. A total of 154 executives from seven different interest groups were selected for the interviews. In their opinion, Finnish wood apartment buildings are fraught with financial risk for the builder. Some of the reasons are the unpredictability of authorities and the experimental nature of the structural systems. Turnkey projects also have their own problems: a two-year guarantee period, a ten-year liability period, and financial liability of the designer equal to the total fee.
The research for the dissertation also revealed the small number of apartment building construction clients and contractors. Of the about 1 400 non-profit and public corporations that can commission state-subsidized housing projects, only 120 have been active in recent years, and only 10 of them operate nationwide. According to the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT, there are a maximum of 40 construction companies capable of erecting apartment buildings as developers. There are only 13 construction companies with offices at more than one locality engaged in housing construction.
Lesser risks through a guarantee system and new procurement methods
– The development of a state performance guarantee system for SME´s would be one option to increase the number of construction companies capable of building apartment buildings. That would also facilitate launching wood apartment building projects which are very demanding. There may be more construction companies capable of constructing apartment buildings that lack the financial resources to obtain guarantees, Ijäs assumes.
Instead of, or along with, a guarantee scheme, Ijäs thinks that the introduction of shared risk procurement models to building projects would be worth studying. At the moment, wood apartment building projects are invariably realized as turnkey projects where the primary responsibility lies with the construction company.
– This would be a good time for the woodworking industry to start forming its own developer organization. It would provide a favorable environment for the development of wood construction.
– Based on the findings of my dissertation which deals with wood construction, one cannot help but ask whether attitudes towards development-oriented changes are similar in other fields? How, for example, can the energy-efficiency targets set for buildings in Finland be attained if the entire construction sector just waits for “somebody else” to go first? My study on wood apartment buildings can also be made use of by leaving out the word “wood” and asking whether the results then apply to our company, Ijäs concludes.
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