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In her latest speech on the state of the Union, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the increased use of wood as an opportunity to streamline construction and make the EU a leader in the circular economy.

These issues were recently discussed at a webinar organized by the Wood Be Better network in Brussels.

Wood Be Better is a joint initiative of Skogsindustrierna and LRF Skogsägarna for increased knowledge and dialogue on forest-related issues related to EU policy. On January 28, a webinar was organized entitled “Using wood – A decisive contribution in greening our buildings” which was followed by 280 participants from more than 20 countries. The meeting was hosted by EU parliamentarian Erik Bergkvist (S):

”The forest has always been a part of my life. My first summer job was to plant tree seedlings, when the summer was over we had planted more than half a million trees. When I pass the area today, I can see that the plants have grown into large, beautiful pines. The forest is also very useful, for example as a raw material for wood construction. In my region, we now build high-rise buildings, theaters and parking garages in wood,” he says.

35 million buildings will be renovated

The green hand is at the heart of the EU’s covid-19 recovery package and aims to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This goal is achieved in part by unleashing a wave of renovations that will make 35 million buildings energy and resource efficient by 2030. The European Commission aims to at least double the pace of renovation over the next ten years, which could create 160,000 new green jobs in the construction sector.

”The recovery package gives us a unique opportunity to accelerate the transformation of the EU economy so that it becomes green, digital and more sustainable. Renovation is a priority area where we hope that the Member States will make major investments,” says Peter Handley, Head of Unit within the European Commission’s Industry Directorate with responsibility for energy – intensive industries and raw materials.

”Production and heating of buildings today account for 40 percent of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions. The built environment thus plays a crucial role in how we counteract climate change. There are many opportunities to use sustainable wood-based products – which store carbon – in the green given in general and the renovation wave in particular,” says Paul Brannen, responsible for Public Affairs at CEI-Bois and one of the speakers at the webinar.

Industrial wood construction streamlines the construction process

Stefan Lindbäck, CEO of Lindbäcks, which is one of Europe’s leading construction companies of industrially produced apartment buildings, also took part. The company recently received its largest individual order to date when Skebo ordered around 550 apartments for almost SEK 1 billion. Through close collaboration with universities and suppliers, Lindbäcks has taken the industrial construction process very far. This competence will be important for Europe’s climate change, says Stefan Lindbäck:

”The proportion of newly built apartments in apartment buildings with wooden frames is increasing in Sweden and now amounts to 20 percent. With an industrial approach and controlled processes, we can minimize waste that does not create any value for the customer. Manufacture of wooden houses in the factory entails, among other things, fewer transports to the construction site and shorter construction times. Using a wood-based frame also gives sustainability a real boost in the right direction,” says Stefan Lindbäck, who wants to see clear rules for reporting climate impact in both the manufacture and management of buildings.

The wood industry ready to deliver

Paul Brannen believes that the renovation market is potentially even larger than the new construction market in Europe and that the wood industry should position itself accordingly. When 35 million buildings are to be renovated, a lot of insulation, doors, windows, walls, stairs, etc. will need to be replaced.

”If the built environment is to become a carbon sink instead of a source of emissions, it is required that wood becomes the primary choice of material for both renovation and new construction. While other industries talk about sustainable solutions, the wood industry is ready to deliver here and now,” he says.

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