Construction wood products derived from forest biomass are fully acknowledged as being a renewable resource ideal for building sustainable homes, whereas non-renewable construction materials will become scarce and more expensive in the coming decades. Given that wood and wood products act as a carbon sink and reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, the use of structural wood material in place of concrete or other more emission-intensive construction materials is one of the most efficient ways of cutting CO2 emissions and meeting ambitious international climate targets.
As more and more buildings in Europe come to the end of their first lifecycle or no longer meet energy efficiency requirements or social demands, they will be renovated or redesigned with strong regard for ecological considerations such as embodied energy and sustainable materials.
State of the Art 2012
Wood construction methods have developed strongly in Europe over the last 20 years. From being confined primarily to small-scale buildings in the 20th century, wood-based construction systems have now been technically proven for buildings of 8-10 storeys high, while 20-storey projects are being planned. These wood construction systems can be prefabricated in a factory and transported in ready-made assemblies to the building site, unlike other building systems. This has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry.
Nevertheless, the current market share of wood construction material for multi-storey buildings is very low. Reasons for this low market impact vary and include legislative barriers and public perception of the properties of wood as a construction material.
Building regulations in many European countries still restrict the use of wood structures more than is technically justifiable. Furthermore, there are no economic incentives for choosing materials and construction systems that result in lower CO2 emissions in the production phase of a building and there are very few positive credentials for this in present environmental building classification systems.
Expected achievements by 2020
Green sustainable building and green renovation practices will be fully established in Europe. Green building refers to a structure and process that is environmentally responsible and resource efficient throughout a building’s life cycle: from site selection to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition. Green building practice will expand and complement the classic building design concerns of economy, utility, durability and comfort. Building regulations will have functionally-based requirements for product performance (fire safety, acoustics) and will not discriminate against the use of wood in multi-storey constructions. Wood-based construction methods will generally be perceived and credited as low carbon footprint constructions.
Required Research and Innovation Activities
A. Identify barriers to sustainable and environmentally-friendly construction and develop further urban building solutions.
B. Harmonise building standards in Europe.
C. Integrate information and production technologies in design and building information models for new generation wooden houses.
D. Develop cost-effective integrated prefabricated timber building systems including hybrid and composite materials.
E. Investigate human well-being, operational safety, structural quality and energy efficiency in wooden buildings.
F. Develop design concepts taking into account changing building services during the building’s lifetime.
G. Improve building physics, indoor air quality and the behaviour of wooden constructions, especially in low-energy houses.
H. Develop advanced non-destructive measurement systems for quality prediction and quality control in wood in construction and in wooden structures.
I. Develop advanced scientifically-justified lightweight wood and fibre-based products, engineered wood products and composite materials with superior performance, low emissions, produced with novel, high quality environmentally-friendly biobased adhesives.
J. Develop solutions with superior thermal and ventilation properties, positive health effects, resistance to moisture and microbial attacks in wood-based, fibre-based or ecologically treated insulation materials and systems.
K. Develop advanced wooden structure joints to improve performance and broaden the applicability of wooden structures to substitute for carbon-intensive materials.
L. Improve outdoor performance of wood-based materials and develop new biobased protection treatments for wood-based products. Develop, document and offer training in methods for protecting wood through design solutions.
M. Develop construction systems and biobased treatments to enhance the long-term durability of high performance wood-based products.
N. Given the functional requirements imposed on the respective products, develop methods to match the lifespan of wood to that of other construction materials (holistic approach, risk of failure, life cycle costs, life cycle planning, strength and sustainability analysis).