2020 has only just begun, but already we are starting to see some big wins for wood in construction in this critical decade for cutting construction’s carbon emissions.
Getting the new decade off to a promising start for the world of wood in construction, last week the European Parliament passed a resolution on the European Green Deal that noted the importance of renewable building materials in the transition to a climate-neutral economy, committing EU countries to “the promotion of timber construction and ecological building materials”.
Why? Well not least because – as MEP Simona Bonafé described in October – wood can help in “meeting the housing challenges in Europe while delivering a unique environmental performance”, but also as the resolution highlights, the potential to create countless new green jobs, particularly in the EU’s rural areas.
In the Nordics, timber construction is steadily rising further up the political agenda too, with growing recognition that wood presents not only a low-carbon option, but one that also speeds up construction times and improves aesthetics and liveability.
As the Danish Housing Minister Kaare Dybvad proclaimed at the end of last year that “we must build more with wood”, he also acknowledged that outdated regulation needs a refresh release wood’s full potential as a building material. Progress on this front is being made amongst Denmark’s Nordic neighbours however, with Sweden’s climate declaration of buildings coming into force at the start of 2022, and Finland’s new method of assessing the life carbon of buildings announced last year.
Despite gradual progress on the political front, ever more buildings are being designed, breaking ground, topping out, and ultimately being lived, worked and studied in the Nordics, with a growing value chain of sustainable forestry, production and second-life wood. We highlighted just some of them in our publication on 25 cases of Nordic good practice last year. In testament, as the buzz on the other side of the Atlantic about wood’s potential has reached National Geographic and the Washington Post in recent weeks, they all point to the Nordics as leading the way in the construction revolution.
Building capacity locally
Many of these successes have resulted from strong action at a local level, with municipalities proving critical in creating the conditions necessary for successful wood construction projects. While some pioneering municipalities have established strategies for wood construction and invested to create thriving timber communities, others are playing catch up.
As such, at the Nordic Wood in Construction Secretariat, much of our work in 2020 will be focused on building capacity at a municipal level to bring wood construction into the mainstream. In particular, we will be looking at how to work with life cycle analyses (LCAs), and building a digital platform to guide municipalities through the process of building with wood.
Alongside this, we will be talking timber at events both within and beyond the Nordics, engaging in this summer’s Nordic democracy festivals to drive policy progression at all levels of government, and undertaking an education initiative to engage the next generation of engineers and architects in the world of wood.