Minister of Agriculture and the Environment: Timber Construction Must Be Promoted throughout Europe as Part of Climate Policy

Minister of Agriculture and the Environment: Timber Construction Must Be Promoted throughout Europe as Part of Climate Policy

Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, who is also responsible for housing, thinks that in order to support climate targets, timber construction should be promoted throughout Europe. “This would be significant for both climate targets and the promotion of timber construction. As a renewable material, wood binds carbon, which has a positive effect on the carbon footprint of a building’s lifecycle.”

“This is a bonus effect that is widely recognised but not yet rated. Building materials should be included in climate targets and they should be given more importance in EU decision making,” Tiilikainen states. As an excellent example, Tiilikainen mentions a local government project in Finland that involves municipalities pursuing a positive image by committing to low-carbon solutions also in construction.

Target: to increase timber construction and the export of wood products

Tiilikainen hopes that the growth of timber construction will promote the use of sawn timber and provide the goods from the wood product industry with better access to the export market. “What’s most important here is for timber construction to make progress, know-how in the field to get stronger and for innovative Finnish timber construction products to enter the export market, because exports provide employment from the forest to the shop.”

Tiilikainen considers it essential to continue the promotion of timber construction also during the current term of government.  “If anything, this need has grown with the excellent results and positive effects received. We have achieved many of the targets set for timber construction, but we still have a lot of work to do, especially in the export market for wood products. Finland mustn’t settle for the role of a baton carrier; instead, it must strive to export wood products that are as highly processed as possible.”

“It is essential that we acquire as much experience and know-how about industrial timber construction as we can in our own country, so that we can enter the export market strong and competitive,” Tiilikainen says.

The government has good reason to promote timber construction

The promotion of timber construction is anchored in the government’s bioeconomy strategy, which aims at making Finland the world leader in the bio and circular economy and clean solutions. The target is to increase the use of wood by 15 million cubic metres annually in industrial applications and energy production.

According to Tiilikainen, another reason for promoting timber construction is that its growth plays a central role in the increase of raw wood use. “Timber construction must be seen as a part of the bioeconomy strategy and the diverse use of wood. As there is an export market for wood products and building components, the government has good reason to push the progress of the timber construction and wood product industry,” Tiilikainen says.

Timber in urban development

Tiilikainen considers the building of wooden multistorey buildings a good example of the huge possibilities timber construction offers. “Urban development using wood is the fastest way to increase its use. Wooden prefabricated units also offer excellent, affordable solutions for renovating older buildings in suburbs. Now that the use of wood in new construction has begun, it’s a great time to consider the potential role of timber in renovation and urban construction that aims to complement existing areas with new buildings or new parts to buildings.”

One of the top projects in the current government programme is to gain more housing in the Helsinki metropolitan area, implemented partly as new construction and partly as new buildings or new parts to buildings added to existing areas. “The renovation of existing buildings provides a good opportunity to add new floors, gain income for the housing company through selling the added square metres and simultaneously improve the appearance of the old building and diversify the whole milieu. The advantage of renovations and building new buildings or adding parts to older buildings in existing areas is that the existing infrastructure can be easily utilised.”

Making timber equal to other building materials

Tiilikainen emphasises the necessity to dissolve some regulations in order to speed up the growth of timber construction. “We will promote the use of wood in construction, for example, by dissolving unnecessary regulations. The preparation work for this is currently underway. At the moment, building regulations are slowing down the growth of timber use. Reasonably priced housing production is also possible by making timber construction equal with other building methods.”

“I have observed that, in quarters specialising in other materials, there is some resistance to the promotion of timber use in construction. This is quite unnecessary, because all materials are needed in all construction, and by increasing the use of timber we will also be achieving other, broader goals, such as boosting the use of sawn timber and promoting low-carbon solutions,” Tiilikainen points out.

Article Service Markku Laukkanen
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