A European platform for promoting the use of wood in construction has been set up.
A new European forum to promote the use of wood was inaugurated in Innsbruck, Austria, in early December. One of the aims of the European Wood Policy Platform, or woodPoP, is to promote wood construction.
’Exchange of information on best practices, joint reports and studies on the wood industry and boosting communication about the sector,’ is how Petri Heino, head of Finland’s Wood Building Programme, described woodPoP’s areas of cooperation to the Audiomedia communication agency.
The platform was set up by 17 countries and the representatives of 8 programmes promoting the use of wood, on the initiative of Austria and Finland.
’I am convinced that by using wood, a renewable resource, we will be able to protect the climate and jointly build a sustainable future with the help of bioeconomy,’ said Norbert Totschnig, Austrian Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, who hosted the inaugural meeting of woodPoP, in a media release by the Fachverband der Holzindustrie Österreichs [Federation of Austrian Wood Industry].
Wood construction binds carbon
Wood is the only renewable construction material that binds carbon. As forests grow, the trees sequester carbon that will then be stored in long-lived wood products.
Over one third of Finland’s carbon dioxide emissions are due to dwellings and construction activity. BY now, every fourth school building in the country is made of wood, and about 85 percent of single-family houses have load-bearing structures of wood. Yet if Finland is to become carbon-neutral by 2035, the use of wood must be increased, as is pointed out by the LAB University of Applied Sciences.
Esa Mikkonen. Lecturer in Mechanical and Wood Technology, says that in residential blocks, for example, the load-bearing structures are of concrete.
If the concrete and steel used in construction were even partly replaced by wood, the greenhouse gas emissions from the industry would decrease significantly.
’If the concrete and steel used in construction were even partly replaced by wood, the greenhouse gas emissions from the industry would decrease significantly,’ Mikkonen says.
The most part of greenhouse gas emissions from construction is caused by the manufacturing of construction materials, such as concrete, steel and insulation materials. The carbon-neutral production of cement, which is needed for concrete, is especially difficult.
One cubic metre of wood binds up to 700–1,000 kilograms of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In Finland, four new trees are planted for each tree felled, which means 150 million seedlings each year.
On-going wood construction programme
There is interest in wood construction, though the construction of residential blocks often stumbles on the issue of cost. Constructing wooden residential blocks is hampered because organisations, attitudes and modes of operation are often slow to change.
’It’s not as if there are any technical difficulties in wood construction,’ explains architect Kimmo Liimatainen, who works as senior lecturer at LAB.
Using wood when it’s appropriate is always good environmentally. Transporting prefabricated box elements made of wood is cheaper and more eco-friendly, for they are not as heavy as, say, concrete.
Liimatainen says that the standardisation of concrete elements has been worked on for over 50 years, and all industrial production lines are based on this system. Designing wood constructions is slower and the solutions are non-standard and therefore more costly.
’Using wood in construction is a bit like testing your idea every single time,’ says Liimatainen.
In terms of ecological sustainability, a wooden residential block is more advantageous than a concrete one.
’Using wood when it’s appropriate is always good environmentally. Transporting prefabricated box elements made of wood is cheaper and more eco-friendly, for they are not as heavy as, say, concrete,’ Mikkonen points out.
Construction will not deplete forests
At least three quarters of Finland’s land area consists of forests. Forest industry is one of the most important sectors in the country, but wood construction makes up only a fraction of it.
There is widespread agreement in Finland that the degree of processing of wood must be improved and is worth improving. One of the ways of doing this would be to increase wood construction, and this would also be in line with the sustainable use of forests.
In fact, where would you find a country where everything related to forests, such as commercial utilisation, recreation and protection, as a whole, are managed better than in Finland?
’If we prefer not to use domestic forest resources, fellings will be carried out in other countries and possibly in areas where forest management practices are not such as you would like to see. In fact, where would you find a country where everything related to forests, such as commercial utilisation, recreation and protection, as a whole, are managed better than in Finland?’ Mikkonen asks.
The Wood Building Programme (2016–2023) of the Finnish Ministry of the Environment aims at increasing the use of wood in urban development, public buildings and large-scale constructions.
The Puussa on tulevaisuus [Future lies in wood] site contains sections in English, describing the potential of wood construction for decreasing emissions from construction and storing carbon in buildings.
The Puuinfo site describes wood construction and its materials in ten languages. The site provides practical information, with the aim of promoting know-how in the use of wood.
/ Philippe Herman
I always wonder, what about products against woodrot?