Wood is a wonderful material, natural as well as renewable. Energy requirements during its ’production’ period are minimal, especially when compared to alternative materials such as concrete, aluminium, or steel. Forests are essential. They are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, while an estimated 1.6 billion people depend on them for their livelihoods. Forests also help us in our fight against climate change, removing and storing significant volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yet forests are vulnerable. Land conversion, development and urban expansion, unsustainable forestry practices and illegal logging, are all threats. But, if our forests are managed sustainably, balancing their ecological, economic and social functions, they can continue to deliver the full range of benefits that people and nature depend on, and will be around for many more generations to come.
Certification systems such as the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest certification (PEFC) offer assurance to the consumer that the timber and wood-based products they buy come from forests that are managed sustainably according to exacting international standards. To ensure the reliability of such systems, regular controls are made by independent certification bodies.
An increasing number of building projects are now opting for certified timber, and both public authorities and private companies are choosing to work with wood and paper with a sustainable origin, through their (Corporate) Social Responsibility policies.
Here are a few innovative European projects using sustainably certified timber!
High Above the Treetops
The center-piece of the Panarbora experience is the treetop walk: 1,635 meters long, 23 meters above the ground, and with a 40 meter high observation tower, it gives an unprecedented view onto the “Bergische Land”. 870 m³ of timber were used for the project. The treetop walk enables one to discover the natural landscapes of North-Rhine Westphalia from a totally new perspective. The circular walk takes the visitor through different vegetation zones and strata. The path, built by Schaffitzel, a PEFC-certified company from Germany, is entirely made of certified wood.
First PEFC Certified Construction Project
The Lighthouse building (El Faro) at the Zaragoza 2008 Expo was the first construction project anywhere in the world to be PEFC Project Certified. The developers, UTE Pavilion Initiatives, were awarded Chain of Custody certification for this remarkable project as all the structural timber elements of the building were sourced from PEFC-certified forests.
The Lighthouse was designed by architect Ricardo Higueras in the form of a ‘jar’ and is a thatched pavilion, constructed entirely of sustainable construction materials such as mud, straw and PEFC-certified timber. It is energy efficient, recyclable and provided a practical demonstration of one of the main themes of the Expo – environmental sustainability.
This PEFC-certified kindergarten built by Rubner Holzbau (Bozen district North-East Italy) replaces two communal kindergartens that were damaged by the earthquake that shook Reggio Emilia in May 2012. The new building has the shape of a whale and has been designed to stimulate the children’s interactions with the surrounding space according to a pedagogical vision.
The structure uses natural or recycled materials with low environmental impact. With the exception of the reinforced concrete foundations, all the bearing structure is made of laminated wood frames. The wood used from these frames was sourced from the PEFC-certified alpine forests located within a radius of 200 km from the headquarters of the building company. An added bonus, the new laminated wood structure ensures maximum safety at much higher seismic forces than those experienced in Emilia.
Shakespeare in the Netherlands
The new Globe Theatre, located next to the open air theatre in Diever, has wood at its heart. The circular building was made and built by Assinkhout with PEFC-certified oak, and was designed by Willem van der Salm, based on the original Globe Theatre in London. The handcrafted building makes the atmosphere within the Globe Theatre a very special one indeed.
In total, over 60m³ of timber were used, about 2,400 wood joints including pin-and-hole and more than 800 pegs to hold the construction together.
The theatre can host up to 200 theatre-goers, including seats and standing areas. One clear difference between the two Globe Theatres in London and Diever is that the Dutch version does not have an open roof but is covered in glass. This gives the theatre the advantage of being used the whole year round, whatever the weather!
Innovation in Traditional Wood Construction
The first PEFC-certified multi-storey wooden block of flats in the Nordic countries has been built in Seinäjoki, a city in western Finland. Its name “Maïhä” originates from wood; it means cambium, which is the layer beneath the outer bark of woody plants. It is also a synonym for luck and fortune. Residents’ good fortune is guarded by a tree in the yard that in Finnish folklore was thought to be a gateway to the spiritual world.
The building is composed of modules, which are made of solid wood cross-laminated timber (CLT) board using spatial element construction technology. The facade of the wooden block of flats gets its colour from dark bark. Entrances and the flats’ outdoor spaces have warm, reddish wood boards. A total of nearly one thousand cubic meters of timber has been used to build Maïhä.
The Hurlingham Racquet Club
This is a green oasis of tradition in the heart of London, renowned as one of the largest private clubs in the world. The Racquet Centre, designed by David Morley Architects, has a sunken low-profile shape and a curved green sedum roof to minimize the environmental impact of the building.
To give the courts space and reduce the cost of the complex beams, they are placed with large gaps of 12.9 meters. To fill these gaps, the architect wanted to see wood. Moreover, he demanded solid sound absorption to reduce reverberation in the hall. Metsä Wood, a Finnish supplier of wood products, delivered the curved roof elements made of pre-constructed Kerto-Ripa parts, resistant enough to enable the structure to support the broad gaps and the heavy green roof required by the design. The Kerto-Ripa elements are PEFC-certified.
Practical tips to build in PEFC-certified timber
- Analyse your timber supply
PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification system, which means that a lot of PEFC-certified timber is available on the market.
- Choose the tree species according to the use you wish to make of the timber
By combining the natural sustainability class and the usage class of the various available species, while also taking into account the architectural requirements of your project, you will broaden your choice of species for your project.
- Work with certified companies
Only companies with a PEFC Chain of Custody certification can supply PEFC timber. They are audited and checked by independent organisations.
- Put your requirements on paper
Specify clearly that you want certified timber for your project. Your suppliers will therefore be aware of this from the start and the risk of misunderstanding or a surprise will be reduced.
- Check the invoices
Certified products must be identified in the appropriate manner as being PEFC-certified. A clear mention of the PEFC certification of the company, a distinct separation between certified and non-certified products, as well as the percentage of certified material for the PEFC-certified products (min. 70%) are required.
Writer: Xavier Noyon, PEFC International