“National action plan in which wood construction has a key role”

Increase wood construction so that the forest and construction industries can together reduce climate impact. This statement is from a Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) report called “The Built Environment, Fuel and Energy,” from the project Innovation in the Forest Industry.

(Editorial 6 Sept. 2017 in Byggvärlden)

The project is proposing a three-fold increase in the number of wood-frame buildings by 2025 and is asking for a national action programme in which wood construction has a key role.

The forest is a vital resource for sustainable development in society. It is also the basis for a large portion of Swedish exports and plays an important role in providing jobs in much of the country, especially outside of the main population centres.

Building in wood can be a cost-effective climate measure and there is significant potential to increase wood construction – both in Sweden and in an international market. But improvements made from wood.

Prefabrication of construction components in wood, as well as in steel and concrete, often takes place in factories outside the growth regions for final assembly at the construction site. Rural areas are where construction for cities can take place. Increased prefabrication will therefore help take the pressure off growth regions and result in a wider distribution of job opportunities.

In a new report the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) is proposing a national initiative for sustainable construction in which wood construction will play a central role. The goal is to triple the number of homes in wood-frame buildings by 2025. Building systems based on cross laminated timber (CLT) or modules are a strong alternative which we will see much more of in the near future.

The goal of going from just under 4,000 residential units in wood-frame buildings today to 12,000 is based on evidence that this is a competitive option for buildings up to six storeys. But tradition and past low ceilings have presented an obstacle. The report proposes a national action plan for sustainable construction in which increased wood construction has a key role. The programme is aimed at the private sector, the public sector and the academic sphere.

In an action programme for sustainable development the following are important success factors:

  • Climate impact must be a consideration in all public procurement. Based on life cycle analysis (LCA), climate declarations or carbon balance must be included as decision criteria.
  • The environmental certification systems which do not at this time include any climate components should be expanded to include them – for both the construction and the operational phases.
  • Knowledge about wood construction needs to increase as a part of education programmes at both the upper secondary and higher education levels, as well as in the workforce through professional development.
  • Public sector actors are responsible for procurement for buildings based on wood, as symbols and inspiration to highlight climate benefits, architectural possibilities and new technical solutions.
  • Continued development of export strategies by the industry and the Government for wooden buildings and wooden construction components. This would strengthen the wood processing industry and enable it to have stable sales, which would also benefit the Swedish construction market. 
  • Construction industry players, like other actors in society, are bound by climate agreements relating to sustainable material choices, reduced and recovered waste, reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and circular flows.

More needs to be done to reduce the climate impact from cement and steel. An increase in the use of wood as a construction material could be a good and cost effective alternative that we can use today.

Wood is not a suitable material for everything, but a three-fold increase from today’s level would be a step in the right direction towards a more sustainable, renewable and climate-adapted built environment.

Björn O. Nilsson, President of IVA

Olof Persson, Chairman, Innovation in the Forest Industry

Peter Wågström, President and CEO NCC

Jan Wintzell, Chairman of the work group for the built environment and energy