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The future of sustainable building is wood

The future of sustainable building is wood

UN Forest Podcast building with wood

The building industry currently accounts for 39% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, 11% of which result from manufacturing building materials and products such as steel, cement, and glass. And yet, to date, emission reduction efforts have not really focused on decarbonizing the construction sector but the two other sectors responsible for the most emissions, electric power and transportation.  

Understanding and reducing emissions from the building sector is vital if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and if we are really serious about leaving a healthy flourishing planet for future generations.  

In the third episode of The UN Forest Podcast, Ms. Nyasha Harper-Michon, architect and activist or as she likes to call herself “archtivist,” and Ms. Sandra Frank, co-founder of Arvet, discuss the advantages of timber construction. Both are seasoned champions of change and have been fighting for environmentally sound, livable communities and our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for years.  

When put into context, the need for and importance of creating more sustainable, low-carbon cities is indisputable. Between 2020 and 2050, 2.3 billion new urban dwellers will need housing and commercial buildings. Using conventional materials like steel and concrete would generate annual emissions of 0.53 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per year. Using wood for half of these buildings could reduce emissions by 0.15 billion tCO2e per year, with an additional 0.52 billion tCO2e per year stored in the buildings.  

But the benefits of wooden construction go beyond sustainability. Wooden buildings, Ms. Harper-Michon reminds us, are proven to have a positive effect on our health and well-being, fostering productivity and creativity, while connecting us with nature. 

From environmental to health benefits, the upside of building with wood is clear. Then, why don’t we build more with wood? What is stopping us? What are these crucial elements of wooden construction that make the building process so beneficial? Does building with wood cause further deforestation? In Sweden, Ms. Frank explains, it does not. But how can we balance between harvesting wood and natural forest regeneration?  

Listen to the latest episode of The UN Forest Podcast to find all the answers.  


Note to editors 

You can listen to the episode “Building with Wood hosted by Nyasha Harper-Michon” on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music. The UN Forest Podcast is a series produced by the Joint UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section to showcase that the potential of forests goes beyond trees. Each episode features special guests and speakers who bring insights on forests as our strongest allies in fighting climate change and creating a sustainable future now and for generations to come.