Wood buildings benefit the environment 

By | 2020-07-29T18:49:57+00:00 July 29th, 2020|

“Can, and should, locally-produced wood materials become the dominant construction material for South African residential buildings?” asked Brand Wessels earlier this year. 

Constructing wood houses holds greater environmental benefits than brick and mortar buildings. Image credit: hinkwood.com

Constructing wood houses holds greater environmental benefits than brick and mortar buildings. Image credit: hinkwood.com

At the 10th Annual Wood Conference held in Cape Town in February this year, Brand Wessels, senior lecturer in Wood Science at the University of Stellenbosch’s department of Forest and Wood Science, asked whether, from an environmental sustainability perspective, residential buildings in South Africa should be wood-based rather than brick and mortar.

Wessels did a study on the subject. He explains that the objective of the study was to quantify the reduction in global warming potential and embodied energy possible if building systems for new residential housing structures in South Africa change to wood-based systems.

“In a modelling analyses where different future building market scenarios in South Africa were compared, it was shown that if wood-based residential buildings increase its market share to 20% of new constructions, the embodied energy and global warming potential of the residential building sector would decrease by about 5% from the current levels,” says Wessels.

If all new residential constructions are wood-based, the total embodied energy and global warming potential of the residential building sector will decrease by 30%.

“It was shown that with the use of wood resources currently exported as chips, as well as planting trees in areas that have been earmarked for afforestation, it will be possible (in the long term) to sustain the future residential building market where all new constructions in South Africa are wood-based. However, in the short term, imports of wood building components might be necessary if significant growth in the wood-based building market share occurs,” says Wessels.