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Buildings, over their entire life cycle, generate as much as 39% of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, according to the Architecture 2030 report. Reducing this figure is a goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal. One of the ways of mitigating climate change is the use of wood in construction, a tonne of which, if used instead of concrete, reduces CO2 emissions by two tonnes (European Forest Institute data). A conference of Polish Wooden Houses and the Warsaw University of Life Sciences was devoted to the subject of carbon footprint in construction.
According to the Carbon Trust definition, the carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted by an organisation, an event, a product or by a person over the entire life cycle, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalent. Currently, construction, taking into account the entire life cycle of a building, generates as much as 39% of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. It is therefore important to look for alternatives and to use the most environmentally friendly materials. At the moment, the best solution is modern timber frame technology, which counteracts climate change through two mechanisms: storing carbon dioxide in wood for many decades or even hundreds of years and reducing the use of carbon-intensive materials such as concrete and steel. This is in line with the Paris Agreement, which states that European Union countries (including Poland) are to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
– Our goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at two key stages, namely the construction itself and then the use of our houses or flats. By relying on wooden structures, we store carbon dioxide in the material and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, in order to reduce the environmental impact during use, we use ecological solutions such as heat pumps, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery or photovoltaics – says Andrzej Schleser, Member of the Management Board of Polskie Domów Drewnianych S.A.
Ecology of wooden construction
According to the European Forest Institute, taking into account the entire life cycle of a building, concrete construction is responsible for the consumption of 42% of total energy, 35% of greenhouse gas emissions and 30% of water consumption.
– It is buildings that hold the key to a low carbon future in Poland and around the world. It is also the global challenge of how to combine the needs of construction with the sustainable development of societies. If appropriate standards for materials and processes are maintained, the carbon footprint of wooden buildings will be lower than that of concrete buildings – says Jakub Gawron, PhD, from the Department of Production Engineering at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences.
Wooden buildings are becoming more and more popular
According to the Central Statistical Office, in the last five years the number of wooden buildings constructed in Poland has more than doubled. In 2020, 905 of them were built compared to 348 in 2015. The growing popularity of wooden structures is a step in the right direction, although the potential of this market is much greater. Up to 15 thousand wooden buildings can be constructed every year.
– Even considering this dynamic growth, the share of wooden construction in the total market is about 1%. The potential is much greater. Thanks to modern prefabrication technologies allowing for the construction of multi-storey wooden buildings, we will definitely increase this share. By 2040, we want up to 20% of buildings in Poland to be constructed in wood-based technologies. Thus, we will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere – concludes Andrzej Schleser.