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  • Aasavari Joshi

Wood - The Key to Climate Proof Building

At the Kursaal Congress Center in San Marino, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Committee on Urban Development, Housing, and Land Management held its 83rd session from the 3rd to the 6th of October 2022. In support of inclusive, circular, smart, and sustainable cities as part of nations' response to and recovery strategies from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 83rd session of the Committee encouraged regional exchange of experiences and best practices. The Committee session also looked at how "Place and Life in the ECE - A Regional Action Plan 2030" has been implemented since the Committee's 82nd session, when it was approved.

In 2018, the building and construction sector was responsible for 39% of energy- and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and 36% of final energy use. Steel, cement, and glass were among the building materials that released more than the equivalent to 2.2 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2018, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Global CO2 emissions from buildings increased by 50% between 1990 and 2019. Construction and building will continue to expand since urbanization is one of the "megatrends" in global demography. In addition, by 2050, 68% of the world's population will live in urban regions, up from the current 55%.

With significant fossil fuel-related CO2 emissions from energy use, transportation, and residential and commercial construction, cities are hotspots of the global carbon cycle. In fact, buildings are responsible for 21% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Embodied emissions from the manufacturing of the steel and cement used in building and construction make up for 18% of this.

Therefore, finding affordable and sustainable alternatives is essential. Future low-carbon construction will rely heavily on wood, a tried-and-true solution. CO2 from the atmosphere is taken up by trees and kept there for the duration of the wood's life, including when it is used to construct buildings. For construction, there is a lot of wood that has been farmed sustainably. As the carbon is only released when the wood is burned or rots, it is one of the best performing building materials in terms of carbon footprint at all stages of construction and beyond. Cities can significantly contribute to the reduction of global carbon emissions. In reality, when low-carbon or carbon-negative materials are used more frequently in place of energy-intensive materials, cities may end up serving as significant carbon sinks. More wood construction will require systematic cross-sectoral thinking, enhanced knowledge and innovation capacities, and perhaps regulatory or financial incentives given the pressing need to reduce the building sector's carbon footprint. To achieve the different ambitious climate targets set by cities and nations throughout the world, the 83rd session of the UNECE Committee provided inspiring examples and experiences on how to best promote the use of this abundant and extremely sustainable resource.


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