The 21st of March marks the International Day of Forests. The ability of forests, trees and wood to bind CO2 plays a vital role in the fight against climate change. Large-volume wooden buildings in urban areas can make a major contribution. That is why the EU project "Build-in-Wood" consisting of 21 international partners strives to make wood a natural choice of material in the construction of multi-storey buildings.
This year, the International Day of Forests focusses on biodiversity and sustainability. The day of action intends to raise public awareness of the importance of forests and wood production for the environment and climate, but also for the local economy. Forests shape our cultural landscape, covering 42% of all surface in Europe. And the forest area continues to grow. The Director of Wood and Biomaterials at the Danish Technological Institute, Niels Morsing, is confident:
In Europe, more wood grows back every year than is harvested. The European forests grow about 840 million m³ every year - almost the equivalent of the wood needed for a single family wooden house every second. Of this amount of wood, roughly one third remains in the forests.”
Forests against climate change
Forests not only produce the oxygen we breathe, they also bind large amounts of the greenhouse gas CO2 (carbon dioxide). Every cubic meter of wood relieves the atmosphere of about one ton of CO2: about as much as an average car emits on the route from Milan to Moscow and back (~5,500 km).
If we use wood to build houses, bridges or furniture, the carbon remains long-term stored in the wood and therefore cannot contribute to global warming.
Sustainable and economic
The cultivation and processing of wood secures 2.6 million jobs in the forestry industry all over Europe. And in contrast to other building materials such as concrete, steel, cement or glass, wood grows naturally in the forest without addition of chemicals - and at an impressive speed. When it comes to forests, not only leaves and needles are “green”.
Urban building with wood
The global trend towards sustainability coupled with the growing demand for housing space in urban areas offers a great opportunity to establish wood as the building material of the future. The use of renewable resources in the construction sector is essential to achieving the EU’s Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. And wood is not just climate-neutral. Wood is climate-positive.
Although the tendency towards large-volume timber construction is already emerging, there are still some obstacles to overcome: the lack of standardization, a shortage of skilled workers, and inadequate experience with wood in executive and decision levels.
Early Adopter Cities
A handful of progressive European cities, among them London and Copenhagen, will play pioneering roles in the "Build-in-Wood" project. In cooperation with the “Build-in-Wood” partners and local stakeholders, these Early Adopter Cities will lead the way, breaking down barriers for multi-storey wood buildings and increasing the knowledge and acceptance of wood as a building material in European society. Their examples shall pave the way for large-scale wood building projects all over Europe.
The city of Innsbruck, located in the heart of the Alps, has strongly expressed their interest in the project. Georg Willi, Mayor of Innsbruck, is convinced:
The use of wood in the construction industry is a central point when it comes to CO2 reduction and climate protection.
Sources / References
 FOREST EUROPE, 2015: State of Europe’s Forests 2015. (P. 113, Table 28), https://foresteurope.org/state-europes-forests-2015-report/
 Statista.com: Average passenger car fuel consumption in Germany, year 2018: 7.8l/100km, https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/484054/umfrage/durchschnittsverbrauch-pkw-in-privaten-haushalten-in-deutschland/