09.03.2020

6. SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

How does intensified use of wood in construction impact on waste flows, and the reuse and recycling of resources?

SDG 12 is all about improving resource efficiency and reduce waste, and research suggests that substituting conventional construction materials with wood can lead to a step change away from the linear economy and towards a circular one, where materials are kept in use and waste is designed out the system. We proposed some hypotheses to test out more specifically how this is true.

Hypothesis One

i) Compared to other materials, wood has a lower potential to be recycled when the building is decommissioned.

ii) Compared to other materials, wood has a lower potential to be reused when the building is decommissioned.

 

Both parts of this hypothesis were roundly rejected by 86% of the respondents, indicating that the intensified use of wood in construction does increase the potential for reuse and recycling of materials.

However, many of the experts pointed out that much of this is contingent on designing for decommission, for example through the use of screws instead of glue. Whilst the potential is high for reuse, more efforts must be made to keep second-life wood higher in the value chain rather than immediately burning it for energy.

“Careful planning and implementing of the construction process is decisive when reducing material losses of wood material. There is room for new innovations.”

 

Hypothesis Two

Wooden construction elements require more packaging to protect the wood in transport, compared to other materials, resulting in increased waste.

 

The potential problem was summed by one expert who stated that:

“Currently we use plastic wrap for wood elements, which is problematic for both the amount of plastic, but also the waste transportation volume.”

Despite this, 55% disagreed with the hypothesis, suggesting that with prefabrication, good logistics and improved innovation, increased use of wood construction elements will not lead to more packaging waste.

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

The project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.