The world population is growing at a rapid rate, along with an acceleration of urbanization taking place. For the Netherlands, this means we need one million extra homes before 2030. A million houses will result in huge demand for materials such as steel and concrete. Materials that are accompanied by lots of greenhouse gas emissions. For illustration: the construction industry is responsible for 39%(!) of the human CO2 emissions.
This is mainly because the energy consumed during all the processes associated with the construction of a building – the extraction, processing, production, transport and product delivery and demolition – is enormous!
That’s why we need to change our vision in the construction industry. Instead of seeing the quantity of construction that is necessary as a challenge, we need to see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to introduce a new way of construction that will reduce human CO2-emissions: building with alternative materials, building with timber!
Timber is a renewable resource that has low embodied energy and stores carbon. It can be recycled and put to new use through dismantling and deconstruction. Innovative construction methods in timber offer an opportunity to combine our urbanisation needs with a climate solution!
Why do we believe timber is the way?
1. No emissions during the production process
Timber requires minimal energy during its extraction and processing. A tree can store fifteen times the carbon that is expended as energy during its transformation to timber construction components. Therefore, by harvesting trees and producing timber for construction, there is a net carbon benefit!
2. CO2 storage function
There are two ways to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere- reducing emissions or capturing CO2 and storing it. Wood can function as both. When the tree is harvested, the carbon remains stored in the wood until the end of its life cycle. While this carbon is safely locked up in timber products within the building, the practice of sustainable forestry ensures new trees which absorbs and stores carbon as they grow.
3. You can achieve a nature-inclusive cycle that enables more forests and CO2 deposition
Timber also functions as a carbon sink in the form of the forest from which it is derived. By capitalising the benefits of forests, an impetus would be created to increase the forest cover. This economic and environmental benefit can be a driver for this transition.
4. Recyclable or cradle to grave approach
Timber contributes to minimal energy consumption during production, construction and operational phase but also after building demolition it can be reused or recycled, thereby lowering its overall embodied energy.
Why is this not happening yet?While experts agree that we are on the brink of timber revolution, things need to be sped up. Timber is still more costly in traditional calculation methods. There is a variety of reasons for this related to market mechanisms, lacking knowledge and unfamiliarity with the material. There is a fourth reason we are specifically focusing on: the environmental advantages we discussed are not monetized properly. This will probably change in time by for instance CO2 taxes and innovation in the timber supply chain. But that will take too long.
That’s why ZeroCarbonFund is here.
What we do is simple: we manage a system to trade the carbon rights that are being generated by building in wood. Our portfolio of carbon-low or even carbon-negative buildings provides us with a supply of these rights. This enables our parties to compensate for currently unavoidable carbon emissions.
Why that is different than other carbon offset schemes
Normal compensation or offsetting systems either trade carbon rights created by avoided emissions or by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. We combine both so that we do not only create a carbon sink, but also make sure that carbon is sequestered through application in something we need: houses and other buildings.
In the end, we will invest only in carbon-negative buildings and selling the surplus carbon rights so we remain carbon-neutral ourselves. As a first step in our business models we will sell the rights of building with wood instead of traditional, CO2-heavy materials.
Why this is the right moment and the right thing to do
Right in time
We need to act now as time is necessary to scale up this transition. The road to net zero requires the building sector to reduce the emissions tremendously, and timber offers the solution. An attractive value case for building in timber would stimulate more traction to speed up innovation, standardisation, and technology to enable a full-fledged timber transition. Moreover, it would stir a discussion on the current state of the voluntary carbon market. When it comes to paying up the cost of transition, the current market prices have a huge gap from the actual cost of carbon reduction in many sectors hampering the pace of transition. Therefore, this would also benefits other sectors to accelerate their transition to achieve a net zero carbon economy by 2050.
Value case driven
Timber offers a lucrative solution to the dual crisis we deal with. Firstly, the direct environmental benefits that are generated by building with timber. It has a double carbon lowering credential to the environment as a material and functions as a carbon storage. Timber can be locally sourced from nearby sustainably managed forests and the growth in its demand would improve both the biodiversity and the forest cover in the region. Building with timber would create more green jobs in the economy and would directly affect and improve the spatial environment with healthier green cities. These benefits could be monetized through carbon accounting system along with the support of relevant actors.
What we are currently working on
We focus on three different levels of scale. We will start two pilots. The first one will be in the most dynamic part of the Netherlands: the Brainport Eindhoven region. This region, made famous by iconic technological powerhouse such as Philips, ASML and NXP, is the perfect ecosystem to start such a next generation movement. Here our first pilot project will be launched: The Dutch Mountains a large mixed-use building with two towers, mainly constructed in wood. We do this in close collaboration with the local governments, technological corporations and SMEs and societal partners. The second will be in the Province of South-Holland.
These two pilots will lead to a national programme to speed up the funding of timber construction, supported by a collective of frontrunners and ambassadors. The Netherlands is the perfect location to combine the demand for proper housing – the Netherlands has to cope with a shortage of one million homes – with a solution for the climate crisis – the Netherlands is one of Europes largest emitters of CO2 per capita.
But it will not end at the Dutch borders, because the climate crisis also does not end there. That is why we eventually will work at a European level. We will combine the EU’s ambitions of a Green Deal and the restart of a common architectural tradition such as Bauhaus.
In April 2021, we will launch both pilots and the launch of the financial programme on a national scale. In the second half of 2021 we will conclude with the launch of the European fund. Together with you!
Join this movement with us.
How you can collaborate with us
Companies that want to compensate their own or societies CO2-emissions. We can do so by storing CO2 for a long time in wood and by planting the trees that are needed for those buildings!Register
Land owners and/or managers that want to be a supplier of wood for timber projects and are able to start and manage production forests. We can add a business model to your forest ambitions!Register