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  • Subject: Sustainability

The Climate does not wait - so we are building in wood

The summer of 2018 brought record-breaking warm temperatures in many parts of the world. Wonderful, many people think – even me – at a micro scale.

By: Anna Denell, Sustainability Manager at Vasakronan and advisory board member of Wood in Construction

However at a macro scale, the heat has serious consequences. With the heat came drought, water shortage and fire. Simultaneously, parts of the world witnessed cloudbursts and flash flooding. The planet is speaking loud and clear: climate change is real and we need to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It is that simple and we cannot wait any longer.

So, what can we do in the construction and real estate sector? For us at Vasakronan, it is primarily about reducing the emissions from our new properties and the materials they are built from. We have already reduced emissions from energy use in our properties and from our transport by more than 95 percent. This was one of the reasons why we began to think about whether it would be possible to build in wood instead of concrete and steel. Building in wood can significantly reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, a wooden building helps to store carbon, as trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere throughout their growth, transforming it into wood fibre through photosynthesis.

Apparently brilliant, and wooden houses have been known for some time in the Swedish market. But why are there not any wooden office buildings being built?

The truth is that there are actually many wooden office buildings being built - just not in Sweden. When we at Vasakronan looked more into the phenomenon of wooden buildings, it turns out that there are many exciting projects already built or under construction around the world. From Canada and the United States through countries in Europe such as France and Great Britain all the way to Australia. And imagine our surprise when we realised that it was a large Swedish-Finnish company that delivered the wooden frame to some of the buildings in Australia.

So, office buildings are being built in wood. In other countries. This means there are obviously skilled architects and consultants who know how to solve the challenges with, for example, noise, moisture, and fire. And it is clear that it is possible to handle these challenges - if you want to. The possibilities of wood are big. In addition to the positive climate characteristics of wood, there are other interesting aspects. For example, the construction time is shorter and the transport loads are lighter and smaller due to the efficiency of wood compared to concrete.

The exterior of the office building Vasakronan is building in Uppsala.

Is it also possible that building in wood improves the well-being of the users of the buildings? So far in our first wood project, a 13,000 square meter office building next to Uppsala Resecenter, we are finding that potential tenants love the building because of the unique feeling it gives them. As humans, we simply find the indoor environment of a wooden house more pleasant. So it is very cool that wooden buildings can actually tackle two of the biggest and most important challenges we have in our industry, the climate and our tenants' health and well-being.

This article has been translated from Swedish and first appeared in Samhallsbyggaren, 12 October, 2018.


  • Author: Anders Vestergaard Jensen
  • Author:
    Anders Vestergaard Jensen

    Climate-KIC Nordic

The Nordic Wood in Construction Secretariat is hosted by EIT Climate-KIC

The project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.