Renewable building materials for healthier living

Wood, the most commonly used renewable construction material in the world, has a bright future. In 2040, biobased construction in Europe has tripled its market share from the 2015 level, whilst the overall added value of the woodworking industries has doubled. Increased value will come from new products and services, as well as more widespread use of energy saving, modular and flexible housing structures and functional furniture.


Developing new building system, including modular and prefabricated systems

Wood-based building systems that use modular and prefabricated elements offer superior performance on many parameters when compared to non-renewable construction systems. However, due to the natural variations in wood quality and the
multiple ways in which wood-based components can be assembled, dimensioning of wooden construction systems is far more complex than those using non-renewable materials. Therefore, wood-based building systems need to be further improved and better harmonized so that construction sectors in different countries increasingly opt to use them. Dedicated research and development is needed in lean manufacturing processes that are more resource efficient, and in building systems that compare better on complex attributes, such as indoor climate or acoustic performance. Building with wood is flexible and dynamic, but systems are often company specific, creating a very complex market for customers, designers and architects. There is a clear need for European co-operation in developing new sustainable building systems.

Examples of research and innovation activities

  • Adopt additive technologies, including 3D printing, robotization, autonomous drone assembly and logistics solutions to drastically decrease construction costs
  • Improve the functionality and interoperability (design, construction and operation) of complex prefabricated construction assembly systems, including their disassembly and reuse
  • Create and maintain a harmonized, Europe-wide, collaborative, artificial intelligence-supported open design and innovation platform that also looks at optimizing construction for local climate, local wood species, etc.


Improving wood-based products, including engineered wood and composites

Products manufactured from solid wood, engineered wood (e.g. cross-laminated timber) or biobased composites, far outperform non-wood materials in terms of carbon-neutrality and in many physical properties, such as low weight and high insulating capabilities. These products are used in various woodbased building systems, but also in furniture, boats and cars, as well as in many infrastructure solutions that need to be both highly durable and affordable, e.g. railway sleepers. Although the demands vary significantly depending on the use, common key performance criteria are durability, structural integrity and fire performance. These need to be better understood, and at the same time, more competitive production methods need to be developed. Research and innovation can also expand opportunities for using hardwood species that are currently underused.

Examples of research and innovation activities

  • Enhance the performance of wood-based materials and products in terms of building engineering physics, behavior, safety, durability, circularity, and for optimized building operations and services
  • Expand the environmental benefits of building with wood by developing new environmentally friendly adhesives, impregnations, coatings and other treatments that use non-toxic and renewable solutions
  • Improve long-term durability and outdoor performance of wood-based products by developing new and sustainable protective treatments and design solutions
  • Research new, integrated smart functions such as photovoltaic and heat-conversion properties, and biosensors that provide provenance and traceability until end-of-life