The fascinating world of wood – a sustainable construction material with many advantages10. September 2020
Wood is a fascinating natural resource. It can be used for homes, furniture, paper, as a heat source and for many more purposes. Because trees regrow naturally and merely require solar energy, wood is highly sustainable. These advantages and the fact that trees emit oxygen during their growth phase while absorbing the harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas throughout their entire life cycle means wood is one of the most valuable and popular construction materials of all time. It comes as no surprise then that wood continues to be a trend in construction.
The German wood industry is burgeoning. Consumers are increasingly opting for the renewable resource, and the number of approved residential homes built with wood has almost doubled since 2007, according to Germany’s Federal Statistics Office. In 2017 alone, approximately 18 per cent of around 120,000 new homes were built with wood. The percentage of wood construction therefore rose by almost five per cent over the past ten years. While masonry continues to be the lone frontrunner in residential construction with a proportion of around 30 per cent, wood is catching up in great leaps, particularly in the field of single family and semi-detached homes.
With over 11.4 million hectares, Germany has one of the largest forest areas among all EU countries. The last major forest inventory commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture was carried out eight years ago. The results showed that approximately 76 million cubic metres of wood were used annually between 2002 and 2012 – generating an annual total turnover of around 180 billion Euro for the industry. Around one million people are employed in Germany to cut these vast quantities of wood. (Source: 2012 Forest Inventory).
Sustainable forestry is key
Foresight is required in order to sustainably cultivate these vast forest areas, particularly in times when forests increasingly suffer due to bark beetle infestations and drought. “Sustainable forest management is extremely important, now more so than ever”, says Ferdinand Schorpp, qualified forestry engineer and head forester of the Freudenstadt district. To him, sustainability not only means taking care of subsequent forest generations, as the head forester also ensures that only as much wood is cut as can grow back, that the current wood requirements are always met and that the forest remains healthy as an ecosystem. “In essence, my colleagues and I try to operate economically in such a manner that allows the following generations to have the same opportunities as we had”, Ferdinand Schorpp says.
Incidentally, the term ‘sustainability’ originates from the forestry sector. To find out more about this and how sustainable German forests are cultivated and more from the forester Ferdinand Schorpp, read our blog post “To me, forestry isn’t a career – it’s my calling“.
Figures from the most recent forest inventory demonstrate the sustainable cultivation of German forests: In 2012, the annual forest growth in Germany was around 122 million cubic metres, significantly higher than the amount of wood harvested. In addition to the foresters’ conscientious work, statutory regulations are another reason for this development: According to the district forester Schorpp, a so-called ‘forest inventory management’ is carried out every ten years. This forest stock take results in a plan for the following decade that determines the maximum amount of harvestable wood per piece of woodland, among other things. Independent bodies such as the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) also monitor these usage rates and certify sustainable wood.
Building with wood actively protects the environment
This combination of sustainable cultivation and high demand is in fact a win-win situation, both for nature and the environment and for us humans. After all, a healthy forest not only supplies sufficient raw materials for homes, furniture, paper etc., it also provides a habitat for animals and a recreational space. In addition to this, trees absorb harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas as early on as during their growth phase, so before they are even considered as a construction material. Manufacturing wood-based materials also requires less energy expenditure than the production of steel and concrete. Further advantages include the fact that wood offers excellent insulation properties and can be reused at any point.
It is no wonder then that wood is becoming increasingly popular in the construction industry. This trend also comes as no surprise to Ralf Bäuerle, Product Manager for the fixings specialist fischer: “Wood is incredibly flexible, and it can be used to produce an endless number of things”, the trained carpenter says, describing the versatility of the construction material. There is another aspect that he finds fascinating: “No two pieces of wood are the same. This means that every time I use it, I end up with an entirely new product, which makes working with wood incredibly exciting”.
But these special features also have their weaknesses: “Due to the fact that wood is a natural growing construction material it has its pitfalls, of course, and I need to be aware of these”, Ralf Bäuerle states.
This is why every day he and his colleagues work on making it easier to work with wood. New products by the fixings specialist fischer are always geared towards the requirements of tradespeople and DIYers, which is why new screws ensure that wood does not split when working close to the edge.
Power-Fast II – fischer’s new chipboard screw
An even faster bite, improved packaging and a higher maximum load: The Power-Fast II makes working with chipboard easier. Find an overview of all the advantages of the new chipboard screw here.
“Ecological construction and building with wood will continue to become more significant in future”, according to the fischer expert Ralf Bäuerle. In other words: “The market continues to grow and we have to adapt to it!”, which is why the fixings specialist fischer will continue to develop new products in the years to come.