Buildings and construction account for about 45% of Finland’s total energy consumption and produce some 35% of all carbon dioxide emissions.
The use of wood in construction could reduce substantially environmental impacts of construction and buildings.
Finnish energy-efficiency regulations were tightened already at the beginning of 2010. All new buildings must be 30% more energy-efficient than before. Once the national regulations required under this fresh Directive enter into force after summer 2012, regulations will tighten by a further 20%.
In this same conjunction Finland will adopt so-called total energy calculations. This means that requirements will be imposed on the energy consumption of the entire building instead of individual structural components.
The Directive requires that national-level minimum energy-efficiency requirements are imposed on renovation building as well. National regulations are in place to ensure that the structural components used in renovation and the heating systems installed in renovated buildings fulfil the strict energy requirements.
The energy-efficiency of the existing stock of buildings is being improved with the aid of energy certificates. The energy-efficiency of buildings is already classified with the aid of EE figures and EE classifications ranging from A to G. Once the new Directive is applied in practice, the energy-efficiency of a building must be disclosed in, for example, its for sale or to let announcements.
The ecological footprint of construction must be reduced
Building accounts for about half of global natural resource consumption and generates about 40% of all waste. As living standards improve and urbanisation intensifies, the significance of the environmental impacts of construction increases on the global scale.
Lowering the energy consumption caused by the use of buildings close to zero would inevitably also highlight the significance of the energy consumed by the materials used in construction. Wood construction is in this respect entirely in a league of its own. Increasing the use of wood would help reduce the environmental impacts of construction quickly and easily.
The environmental impacts caused by wooden structures and their manufacture are very minor when compared to other construction materials. Wood is an eco-product, which binds atmospheric carbon and can help replace non-renewable raw materials and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Wooden structures also yield more energy than is needed to manufacture them.
A wooden single-family home stores about 30 tonnes of carbon. This amount is equivalent to the emissions caused by a family’s motoring over ten years. When built and maintained appropriately, a wooden house is long-lasting. It can be dismantled after its useful life and its materials used in the generation of renewable energy.
Finland to pioneer wood construction
The market share of wood in all construction activity in Finland is almost 40%. In Europe, this share ranges between 4% and 9%.
Wood construction provides Finland with substantial opportunities for business activities and creates employment close to a sustainably produced raw material. A competitive wood construction industry will increase export and tax revenues in tandem with industrial employment.
Wood construction promotes the market entry of timber. The more we build out of wood, the more pulpwood, woodchips and sawdust is available as a raw material for paper manufacture and as forest biomass for energy utilisation.
The amount of wood required for Finland’s annual housing production takes less than eight hours to grow in the forests.