Despite wood has been used for centuries in human history as a building material, it was replaced in the past centuries by artificial materials such as bricks and, later, reinforced concrete. Wood is not an inadequate material in terms of engineering behavior but it is highly prone to fire. Ironically, some of the materials mostly used may perform worse than wood in extreme temperatures. For instance, steel fails faster than wood triggering a structural collapse. However, wood has recently become again a popular material for engineering in an attempt to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry. Technology in wooden structures has made possible the construction of multi-stories buildings. To improve the behavior of the material under high temperatures, chemicals or sprinklers are added.
The utilization of wood as a construction material has 2 ecological benefits: 1. It reduces the carbon emission of concrete production and 2. Wood surfaces can absorb massive amounts of CO2. In fact, a recent study suggests that a wooden surface of 100 m2 can absorb 10.000-30.0000 kg of carbon dioxide.
Recent research is focused on the structural properties of wood and its capacity towards modern building. Regarding financial matters, some studies suggest that wood structures come at a higher cost.
The new study concentrates on the economic perspective of wooden structures. The team involved scientists from Aalto University in Finland where wood has been used as a construction material for years. In fact, Finland aims at having 45% of multi-stories buildings made of wood by 2025.
Scientists analyzed data from real estate sales that took place between 1999 and 2018. 2.23% of the buildings were made of timber. The team proved that the wooden structures were sold at about 9% higher prices than conventional ones made of concrete. The findings of the study were published in Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability Journal. The authors suggest that people are more sensitive when it comes to environmental-friendly solutions especially when they commit to long-term investment as a building purchase.
The team emphasizes that the transition is not going to be easy since construction companies are reluctant. Most of the contractors do not wish to change their conventional building techniques and lack of knowledge regarding how to make wooden buildings. However, “the cost of construction is just half of the cost of a home, so if the consumer is ready to pay nearly 10% for their wooden home, it’s an extremely worthwhile investment for the builder,” Seppo Junnila, co-author of the study and a professor of real estate business at Aalto University, clarifies.
Despite the benefits of utilizing wood as a building material, scientists alert that it should be conducted within strict legislation. Nowadays, deforestation is a crucial issue and if a country decides to boost wood structures, it also has to come up with a plan to replace the trees. Finland and other countries are implementing such regulations for years.