The opportunities of wood: In Italy, ecological houses are made from wood

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Inclusion of calculations to determine the environmental burden of construction in the planning and tendering phase of public building projects is required by many Italian municipalities and cities. Wooden houses have come out on top in all of the environmental impact assessments performed so far – even though the transport distances of their wood raw materials were somewhat longer than would have been the case if alternative constructions materials were used.

For example, the carbon dioxide emissions caused by the building of a daycare centre with a floor area of about a thousand square metres in Rome recently were 91 tonnes lower with wood as the main raw material, in addition to which the manufacture of the construction products used in the building consumed 40 megawatt hours and 544 tonnes of natural resources less than would have been needed if an alternative raw material had been selected.

The Italian environmental calculations are significant because they cover the full lifecycle of buildings, beginning from the manufacture of construction products to the recycling of used construction materials. This means that the full lifecycle of structures is assessed instead of only the environmental burdens occurring during the useful life of a building.

In Finland, public building developers, i.e. municipalities, cities and the State, are also required to evaluate the environmental impact of buildings and their construction during the planning and tendering phase. The environmental burden caused by the manufacture of construction products  must be included in the calculations. The methods and instruments of assessment should be developed and harmonised to facilitate this because existing tools are too complicated and opaque for planners. Furthermore, goals need to be set for reducing the environmental impact caused by construction.

The structures of a wooden house bind carbon dioxide and replace other materials that cause a greater environmental burden. A wooden building can produce up to 60% less carbon dioxide emissions than an alternative structure made using different materials.

More information:

Mikko Viljakainen, Director, Building with wood,
Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel. +358 9 132 6625,