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Wood: a major asset for the future of construction
14/09/2021 - Blog

There’s nothing new about timber construction, as wood has been used on a large scale in the Nordic countries for decades. In this country, however, it is slow to establish itself as a real alternative to traditional construction methods, although there are clear signs that it is being used more widely. Faced with the challenges ahead, not least of which is climate change, wood may turn out to be an extremely effective tool both from the environmental and economic perspective, and in terms of the well-being it brings to occupants. Wood Shapers totally understands this and, fortunately, is not alone.

1) Wood, a renewable material

It is a common misconception that the use of timber in construction accelerates deforestation. It should be noted that the annual growth of European forests far exceeds the use of wood resources. One figure speaks louder than words: between 1990 and 2020, the annual growth of European forests increased by 50%, from 129 m3/ha to 169 m3/ha[1]. That's why we need to be talking about reforestation rather than deforestation. 

When it comes to durability, it is worth mentioning that wood and its components allow for a wide variety of uses of the resource. What’s more, only 30%[2] of total wood resources are used for construction, the rest going for paper, packaging, furniture and even the chemical industry (cellulose for fibres). 

We should also point out that the great majority of European forest is certified by labels indicating sound management (PEFC, FSC), which guarantee sustainable exploitation: for every tree that is cut down, another one must be planted. That’s why WoodShapers only uses these types of wood that carry European certifications. 

[1] State of Europe’s Forests 2020.

[2] French Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry

2) Undeniable carbon advantages 

According to McKinsey Global Institute, 90% of CO2 emissions in the new construction sector between 2015 and 2050 will come from the production of materials and 10% from their implementation. We also know that the building sector alone accounts for 39% of greenhouse gas emissions, which must be reduced by 50% in the years ahead (European Green Deal). 

The future challenge for the sector is therefore to increase the use of bio-based materials, of which wood is obviously a part. According to some studies, every m3 of wood used in construction as a substitute for other construction materials reduces CO2 emissions  by 1.1 tonnes. If we add to this the 0.9 tonne stored in the wood (as the tree grows, it absorbs CO2 and stores it in the wood at a rate of 0.9 tonne per m3), we obtain a total reduction of 2 tonnes/m3. 

In this regard, a building constructed in Denver, Colorado, (the Platte Fifteen: 14,000 m2 over five storeys) shows that there is a 70% reduction of greenhouse gases in a timber construction compared to the same building in steel. 
This figure can even be as high as 76%[3] if we compare it with a concrete construction. 

[3] Woodworks Council mei 2021

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3) A circular material

Everyone is talking about the circularity of materials these days. And wood is the perfect example of this. The average life span of a commercial building is 50 years, which corresponds to the growth period of a tree. In other words, when a building reaches the end of its life, nature will have reproduced the material taken from it at the time the building was constructed. Timber is the only structural material that allows this regeneration. Furthermore, timber buildings are very easy to dismantle and therefore require very little energy during the deconstruction phase. This means that a second life for the timber is possible in structures with smaller lengths and sections. At the end of this second life, however, there is even a third one since the timber can be crushed to make panels. 


4) A sense of well-being

Biophilia is described as an innate love of nature and a willingness to surround oneself with natural objects and systems. We spend less than 6 to 8% of our time outdoors in contact with nature. This results in a disconnect. Anyone who lives in a building constructed from timber will tell you that wood gives a feeling of well-being; it is a warm, healthy and natural material. A great many different studies demonstrate its beneficial effects on health, and in particular on blood pressure and heart rate. Productivity in a timber-built workplace is found to increase by 8%, and sense of well-being by 13%. In Austria, a study by Dr. Moser (Schule ohne Stress) shows an increase in concentration among pupils in classrooms built from wood. 


The Wooden project was designed to maximise natural light and the use of wood for the ceiling panels and the supporting structure. 

5) Economies of scale

Building with wood is based on a simple and economical principle: prefabrication and dry assembly of elements in the factory. On site, this results in a time saving of 35% compared to traditional construction. Other advantages are reduced accident risks, lower risk of error on site due to the 3D modelling (the constituent elements are manufactured on digitally controlled machines), less noise and dust pollution, as well the 75% waste reduction. 

In a nutshell, wood has everything it needs to succeed and become established as the building material of the future in the years to come. And it is on the right track, as more and more people – ordinary folk as well as professionals – are convinced of its qualities.


Want to find out more? Join WoodCulture, a motivated, informed and committed community of people who are keen to build differently and take specific action for a greener planet. Come and find us at our next presentation at the REALTY summit on 21 September, in the heart of the highly symbolic Gare Maritime, where we will be discussing the future of wood construction. Are we ready, and what are the implications for project financing? Is timber construction cheaper to finance than traditional building materials? Find out what our experts think: Aurore de Montjoie (Deputy Head Real Estate Finance Belgium, BNP Paribas Fortis), Jean-Pierre Hanin (CEO Cofinimmo), David Roulin (CEO ArtBuild Architects), Michiel Riedijk (Director Riedijk Neutelings Architecten), Arnaud Regout (CEO WoodShapers). More information

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