Will we see more sustainable wooden houses in the future?
Building materials like concrete emit large amounts of CO2, timber buildings are on the other hand sometimes regarded as having a negative CO2 footprint. That is why Assistant Professor David Hoffmeyer from SDU Civil and Architectural Engineering researches in wood as a building material. We have asked him if we in our fight against climate change will see more wooden houses in 10 years:
When we look at the landscape in ten years' time, will we see more wooden houses?
I definitely think the increase in timber volume used in the construction industry that we see right now will continue. Even though there are still some challenges with timber buildings (acoustics for instance), the advantages like the low CO2-emission, possibility for precise processing, low weight etc. will make timber an equally attractive construction material as steel and concrete.
Where will you see the biggest demand for wood as a building material?
Many people associate timber buildings with wooden facades and exposed timber surfaces inside the building. However, the biggest effect CO2-wise comes from constructing the load-bearing elements like beams, columns, floor, and wall elements in timber. Therefore, it may not necessarily be apparent whether a building is constructed in concrete or timber. Many both low- and high-rise buildings could therefore easily contain more timber than concrete. But in 10 years I think the demand for timber will come along with mid-rise building projects.
Will consumers start demanding wooden houses?
They already do. And if we look abroad, they actually demand it quite significantly. However, to my knowledge timber buildings are still only sporadically constructed. This is probably connected to the tradition amongst contractors and developers who, through many decades, have become very experienced in constructing concrete and steel buildings. So we need much more experience with timber before it becomes sufficiently competitive with, for instance, prefabricated concrete for use in low-rise buildings and single-family houses.
Is there a need for behavioural regulation or tax differentiation, as we see it in electric cars?
I think tax differentiation makes sense for electric cars because the buyers are you and me – and the financial difference matters for the ordinary citizen. But that is necessary because electric cars, for various reasons, may not the obvious and first choice when buying a new car. It’s a kind of carrot and stick-approach. But timber buildings are actually quite popular to many developers and get a lot of political attention and support. So, I believe it will be most beneficial to continue gathering experience and convince the relevant actors about the many advantages compared to less sustainable materials.
Do you think that the state will make an example and build more public wooden buildings?
I am a bit reluctant to believe that we will see something like what Emmanuel Macron for instance is aiming at in France, namely mandating public buildings to be built with at least 50 % timber. I think it is an admirable initiative and will hopefully inspire many others to use more timber. But it seems that the Danish government is listening to relevant voices in the timber construction industry and paves the way for more and sought-after solutions to current problems. So, I am optimistic about the timber-future.