Houses that give back
The building industry creates more carbon than any other and with the building volumes going up as the population of the world increases rapidly, we need innovation for sustainable living. Estonia has an unexpected solution: wooden houses.
Wooden houses have the potential to reverse climate change because wood is carbon neutral and with sustainable forestry management it is possible to increase the net carbon pool of the Earth. Additionally, wood is lighter and requires a lot less energy to work with, compared to ordinary brick and mortar houses.
As sustainability has become a hype word in the last decade, there is a lot of hot air (pun intended) surrounding in. The Greenline House carbon footprint labelling system developed by the Estonian company Kroonpress together with the Estonian Woodenhouses Cluster aims to clear matters up. It calculates the cradle-to-gate life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of procuring, manufacturing and constructing a wooden house, taking into account both emitted and sequestered carbon. This means we finally have a reliable and scientifically sound way of assessing the sustainability of wooden houses. And building houses that do not just use resources but give something back.
It is no surprise that Estonia is at the forefront of this innovation. Over half of Estonia is covered with forests. The manufacturing of wooden houses is one of Estonia’s key industries, with Estonia being the biggest wooden house exporter in Europe. Main destinations are Norway, Germany, and the UK, all markets that demand an extremely high quality product. But this is not just about numbers and economics.
The bestselling book of recent years in Estonia is a meditation on Estonians’ relationship with forests by Valdur Mikita. The hotly debated book clearly struck a nerve in the cultural psyche. Further proof is the fact that the topic of sustainable forest management is a weekly hot debate topic in the local media.
Chopping down wood is hardly how one would imagine a environmentalist spending his or her days. But as always, the story is a bit more complicated. Or much more complicated. Greenline Houses labelling system strives to make it a bit simpler.