Environmental approaches to using wood in Nordic countries

Anh-Dai Lu
4 min readApr 10, 2020
Oslo Opera House

Across the design world, wood is now sought after as a solution for minimizing environmental footprints while delivering long term value. This is particularly the case with the construction industry, which is responsible for around one third of all carbon emissions globally. As the only renewable construction material, wood consumes less energy and discharges less pollutant to the environment compared to other materials such as steel and concrete[i]. Considering the wave of energy-positive buildings as in Norway, wood is a natural choice that can reduce energy consumption across its life cycle.

Thanks to intensive research directed at sustainable timber production as well as forestry legislation, forest resources in Scandinavia have doubled. Innovations in the timber industry — such as cross-laminated and glue-laminated timbers — are designed to be fire and moisture-resistant, which further position wood as a desirable alternative to traditional materials. In Norway, the environmental friendly Kebony technology helps enhance the properties of softwood and make it both durable and versatile to work with. In Denmark, Saga Wood introduces a process that uses second-hand wood from demolition, making it possible to use wood in a more responsible manner. In addition to efficient forestry management, all these innovative wood technologies are incentives for stakeholders to move towards making all new buildings zero energy across the Nordics.

A 2019 report by the Nordic Council of Ministers highlights a number of environmental, economic and social co-benefits throughout the construction value chain by the use of wood. This perspective is important as many in the design world have now embraced the notion of holistic design, and trends in society shift from an “ego-system” to an “eco-system mode of functioning.” In eco system economies, the focus is on “bringing well-being to all beings, human and non-human, including current and future generations.” Snøhetta architect Jette Hopp considers “architecture one of the most important cultural expressions of our time that also has a social impact.” Helsinki’s new Central Library Oodi, for example, is designed as a “living meeting place” open for all that can be used for a number of purposes. Built to last for 150 years, the use of wood in its construction not only…

Anh-Dai Lu

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