Given the key objectives of the EU’s 7th and 8th Environment Action Programmes and the European Green Deal, the Dutch corporate sector has to reduce the use of new fossil resources by 50% by 2030 (under the government-wide programme for a circular economy by 2050), while the Danish Climate Act commits it to a 70% CO2 reduction by 2030. Currently, the building sector has a high environmental and climate impact due to the materials being used (e.g. concrete, steel, aluminium, PVC). Increased use of timber in the construction sector can help with the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Despite the many advantages, the use of timber is still very low. Timber is mistakenly perceived as too expensive and not sustainable. In addition, the LCA (life cycle assessment) database currently used for building materials in the Netherlands is incomplete, and the LCA methodology does not include biodiversity, social impacts, circularity or embodied CO2 in the environmental calculation. Therefore, building products made from timber score low and are not chosen. Building with timber and timber innovations are not part of higher education, so future developers and decision makers are not aware of the benefits and possibilities. In Denmark, fire and noise regulations are additional barriers.However, buildings can be constructed faster and cheaper, thanks to timber innovations, creating less pollution. Recyclability and reusability of timber products have also increased. If all aspects of sustainability of timber were included in LCA calculations, timber would outweigh more traditional materials by far.
The overall objective of the LIFE timber in housing project is to increase the demand for timber from sustainably managed forests by increasing its use in social housing in the Netherlands and Denmark. In order to achieve this, the project will focus on improving the quality of decision making when LCA is used as a tool for selecting building materials in the social housing sector. It will improve LCA databases and lobby for the integration of wider sustainability aspects in LCA methodology.
The project aims to collect accurate data on the benefits and possibilities of building in timber and make them easily available to key stakeholders in the sector (corporations, developers, architects, engineers, construction companies). Practical courses, tools, capacity building for the sector and other stakeholders, education and replication of knowledge and materials in other countries (Germany, Austria, Belgium and France) as well as dissemination packs are also envisaged.
All of this will allow the project to have measurable effects on reducing the EU’s climate footprint and to put into practice the European Green Deal targets with regard to the construction sector and material use.
- Almost 15 000 social houses newly built during 2022-2026 in the Netherlands to be constructed using timber (representing up to 15% of social houses built in 2026);
- 30 Social Housing Organisations in Denmark to have policies in which they express their commitment to increase use of timeber by more than 25% by 2030; and
- Lead to a reduction of more than 310 000 tonnes of CO2.