The afternoon session of this year's International Hardwood Conference, held in Copenhagen from 16-18 September, focussed on new market opportunities and the potential for increased use of hardwood as a construction material. Matti Kuittinen from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture reported a recent revival in wood construction. Besides single-family homes, several tall wooden buildings are under construction all over the world.
As a main reason for the increased use of wood – besides aesthetics – he noted the growing awareness of climate change and other environmental issues, for example reflected in Green Building initiatives at national level in a several EU countries and the EU Directive for energy performance of buildings that requires new buildings to be nearly zero energy after 2020.
Zero energy buildings can be made from different materials, according to Mr. Kuittinen, but wooden buildings always seem to have lower carbon footprint than others. He concluded that ―wood construction has been and will always be a vital part of our bioeconomy.
This view was shared by Peter Wilson, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Construction at Napier University in Edinburgh, UK. He emphasised the number and importance of European architects as potential clients for the wood industry and stated that the timber industry still fails to reach out to enough architects.
Architects are of special importance to the hardwood industry since they are often the key decision makers in high-value building projects.
Mr. Wilson felt there is particular value in working with European universities – which train some of the world‘s leading architects - to increase coverage of timber in the architectural syllabus. He also stressed that the development of engineered wood products has changed the perception of timber among designers and architects.
China, in particular, should be encouraged to build its fast growing cities in wood rather than concrete or steel. AHEC‘s European Director David Venables echoed this call. He named architects, designers and specifiers as potential clients and key to future growth in the hardwood market.