Everything to gain from building in wood

Chronicle by Anna Denell

Humanity faces many challenges, the biggest and most urgent of which is, without doubt, climate change. If we don’t solve this one, many of the others will also be impossible. All of us – individuals, companies and politicians – therefore need to do everything we can to drastically reduce our emissions, as soon as possible. If we don’t, there is a major risk that we will fail to keep the planet’s average warming below two degrees.

So what must we in the construction and real estate sector do? Of course the challenges vary from company to company. For us, with a large property portfolio and a relatively large development business, the focus is on the emissions associated with our tenants’ activities and energy use in our buildings, as well as emissions from construction projects and the materials we use in those projects.

In 2019, we participated in the task of drawing up a local roadmap for a climate-neutral construction and civil engineering sector in Malmö by 2030. As a consequence of this work, we have drawn up our own roadmap for becoming climate-neutral along our whole value chain by the same year. This is one of the reasons why we are now reviewing whether we can build more in wood instead of concrete and steel, since this would significantly reduce the carbon emissions from our construction projects.

We have taken tentative steps in this direction over the past few years, building extensions and minor sections in wood, and autumn marks the start of our biggest wooden building project to date, Magasin X in Uppsala, which as things stand will be Sweden’s biggest office block constructed in wood.

However the journey to our 13,000 square metre office block in wood has not been entirely plain sailing. Of course we have encountered challenges such as impact sound, the potential for damp problems, greater fire risk and shorter spans. At the same time, we have learned that, in addition to the climate issue, wood can also have other benefits. These include shorter production times, reduced transport requirements due to the material’s low weight and less construction waste.

But perhaps the greatest potential for wood lies with the people who use the buildings. This far into the Magasin X project, we can report that our prospective tenants have largely chosen the building because of its use of wood and the feeling that gives. We take this as evidence that people find the indoor environment in a wooden building more pleasant. So we believe we will find it easier to lease premises and retain existing tenants in our wooden buildings, which over the long term will naturally lead to higher net operating income and property values.

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