Since the beginning of 2021, European carpentry and timber construction companies have been facing an area of tension between increased demand in almost all timber construction sectors and an uncertain supply of wood products. To make matters worse, prices rose significantly in the course of spring 2021 – in some cases doubled.
The European timber construction association Timber Construction Europe is reacting to the currently dramatic supply situation of timber construction companies with a bundle of proposed solutions for resource-efficient forest and timber use.
Timber Construction Europe sees the increase in overseas exports of raw and cut materials to North America and Asia as the reason. They lead to a shortage on the European markets and currently counteract the desired climate protection effect, as described in the Green Deal for Europe, according to the association.
Demand is increasing
The demand for sustainable timber construction has increased and politicians have recognized its potential. Now, despite sufficient wood stocks, the supply situation is worsening due to climate-related forest damage, pandemic-related market fluctuations and limited regional processing capacities.
The sawmill industry is currently benefiting from increased demand in overseas markets. As a result, material costs on the European market for timber construction companies have increased significantly. This complicates the calculation of current projects for carpenters. In addition, long delivery times and supply bottlenecks are slowing the market dynamics of European timber construction. This significantly reduces the contribution to climate protection that timber construction is capable of.
Climate protection greatest challenge
Climate protection is meanwhile one of the greatest challenges for the global and especially for the industrial society in Europe. To this end, the construction sector and especially timber construction can make an important contribution if the framework conditions are right. This includes, among other things, short regional delivery routes and value chains.
The association proposes the following solutions:
Consistent CO2 taxation in the construction sector
The construction sector is responsible for a third of greenhouse emissions worldwide. Global warming must be limited to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial level. For this it is necessary to consistently include delivery routes and manufacturing processes of building materials in the public-law assessment with regard to their CO2 balance and to price them. “Embodied energy” can no longer be disregarded in the assessment of buildings and building materials. Within the framework of the Construction Products Regulation, the “sustainable use of natural resources” must be mandated and systematically implemented for all EU member states as an essential basic requirement for BWR 7 buildings.
Commitment to the forestry use of European forests
The forest fulfills many tasks. It is a recreation area, an important climate protector, home for animals and plants and an important supplier of raw materials. Sustainable forest management ensures that the forest guarantees these diverse ecological, social and economic services in the long term. The supply of raw materials is thus secured in the long term. In the future, too, the European forest should be used sustainably for forestry and provide the environmentally friendly building material wood. Building with wood increases the climate protection potential of the construction industry. In this way, forest and timber construction can work together as carbon stores to significantly increase climate protection performance. Resource-efficient use of wood must also be based on the long-term needs of the local timber industry, as well as oriented towards the social requirements of nature conservation. Legal requirements and regulations for sustainable forest management must be implemented.
Resource-efficient use of the wood raw material
Even if current wood stocks are affected by environmental influences or insect infestation, the wood affected is not an inferior raw material, but has almost identical properties to conventional construction timber. The so-called calamity wood retains its load-bearing capacity and its important function as a CO2 sink, regardless of external impairments. In principle, from an ecological and climate policy point of view, the material recycling of wood stocks should be preferred to thermal recycling. The potential of the material use of wood has not yet been fully exploited. For this purpose, the framework conditions for cascade use must be further improved in order to maintain the CO2 storage effects and thus the climate protection effect.
Promotion of sustainable local supply networks
A direct and regional supply of raw materials is of great importance for an efficient contribution to climate protection. A stringent value chain from the forest to the sawmills to the wood processing companies with short supply chains is highly ecological. This achieves the best possible climate protection effect, as long transport routes and thus CO2 emissions are avoided. This also strengthens the small and medium-sized economic structures in the European regions. This includes the establishment of efficient cooperation structures and the formation and promotion of cooperatives. In this way, stable and fair prices as well as reliable availability along the value chain could be achieved.
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