Studying Abroad

Wood Science & Engineering (WSE) faculty members Eric Hansen and Chris Knowles recently returned from a study abroad course to Finland and Sweden. The two week course included four WSE students from OSU and five architecture students from UO. A faculty member from the UO school of architecture also participated in Finland portion of the course.

This interdisciplinary program examined sustainable development from multiple perspectives. The students were provided a unique opportunity to learn how climate, natural ecosystems, clean energy production, forest management and innovations in the manufacture of wood products influence the design of furniture, residential and nonresidential buildings and community development.

The agenda included a mixture of lectures and guided tours. Students learned about energy use, large and small scale energy generation, energy conservation, district heating systems, forest management, wildlife management, community planning, farming and student life in Finland and Sweden. Students also received guided tours of the Helsinki district heating system, multiple wooden buildings, several buildings designed by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, a newly developed eco-district in Stockholm and multiple large and small scale energy generation facilities.

The course was structured so that students would have the opportunity to follow wood through the entire value chain, from the forest to the mill to the final product and to final use in a building. Students also had the opportunity to follow this value chain for forest biomass used in a combined heat and power process.

The diverse backgrounds of the students provided a unique learning experience that the students really enjoyed.  Students were required to keep a daily journal discussing what they learned each day. Each of the students discussed how much they appreciated the opportunity to learn from students with a different background. For example, one OSU student said “Walking through the elementary school with the U of O architects was a treat. Being around them allowed me to experience the building from a completely different lens. Instead of looking at structural characteristics of the building, I was exposed to the idea of design not in terms of serving a functional purpose, but rather creating a desired feeling. A quote from architect Yrjö Suonto paraphrased the concept for me, “Instead of building to meet specific design codes mandated by law, instead build toward the environment you would like to create.”

View a video of the 2011 trip.