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Are Wooden Cities the Future of Construction?

on Friday, 10 February 2023.

Building materials such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) are increasingly competing with concrete and steel as key materials in the construction industry.

It is becoming particularly popular in Finland, where sustainability is a priority. Developers are starting to favour wood over other materials in order to meet a challenging deadline of carbon neutrality by 2035. The United Kingdom has a similarly challenging target, to have net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Construction is a key area that the UK could look to develop to become more eco conscious, perhaps using Finnish construction as an example to follow.

Finland already has its famous 'Wood City' district in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki, which is aimed at being a new and fully sustainable urban quarter. Wood is now part of the construction industry on an enormous scale, using technology based on Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) Panels to create the multi-storey buildings of Wood City. Timber as a building material is reusable, cost competitive, renewable and most importantly sustainable. Wood has the lowest carbon emissions among building materials and has the crucial benefit of long term carbon storage. Wood construction is both competitive and sustainable, as it is fully growable.

Finland is also the most heavily forested country in Europe, with 97% of the trees in their forests being either pine, spruce or birch. With an abundance of natural materials to utilise, less emissions will be produced due to less reliance on materials such as steel or bricks.

Many readers might be thinking 'that's all well and good, but what if there's a fire?'. This is a valid concern to have, but CLT and LVL are both treated with chemicals which are soaked into the wood in order to be more fire retardant and offer significantly higher resistance to fire than traditional beams. The structure of CLT and LVL also makes them more fire resistant, with LVL being less porous than other wood types, and the veneer is arranged in multiple layers to offer both strength and resilience.

Whilst the allure of our homes smelling of pine certainly is something, the environmental benefits are plain for all to see. The UK is already pushing to plant more trees, and increase the amount of land we use for forestry, so why not use wood as a component for our building spaces? With the health benefits that can be gained from trees, coupled with proposals for more garden communities, we could see a future where many of our cities are transformed from concrete jungles into almost actual jungles. Who wouldn't want to live in a forest that is also a city?

Perhaps the Fins are on to something?

For further advice, please contact Jason Prosser in our Construction team on 0117 314 5237, or complete the form below.

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