Changing paradigms on Net-Zero Carbon ambitions: A Build-in-Wood roadmap for multi-storey wood building support policies

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Submission Summary
An intense political focus on cutting energy consumption from the use phase of buildings has dominated the European political agenda for the past several decades, with significant results being supported by European policies and initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors, which has been signed by more than 10,000 cities intent on achieving climate neutrality. The building sector is, however, still responsible for more than a third of the GHG emissions, and more than a third of the total waste produced, with building material reuse percentages still at 1%. In the last decades, the attention on GHG emissions beyond in-use operational energy demand has been less pronounced, even if there are significant reductions to be gained by focusing on the choice of construction materials and logistics involved. Policy efforts to decarbonize the European building stock by taking a whole-life carbon perspective on the potential of multi-storey wood buildings is the object of our case study report, which focuses on the Build-in-Wood project, financed under the Horizon 2020 work programme, LC-RUR-11-2019-2020: „Sustainable wood value chains”. Build-in-Wood (2019-2023) aims to make wood a natural choice of building material for the construction of multi-storey buildings by addressing technical, economic, legislative, and psychological barriers hindering the large-scale uptake of wood in the construction sector. A key part of the project is the involvement of 7 Early Adopter Cities (EACs) in novel urban and urban-rural wood building policy development: Brașov (Romania), Innsbruck (Austria), Trento (Italy), Copenhagen (Denmark), Trondheim (Norway), Borough of Haringey (UK) and Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam (Netherlands). While cities already elaborate strategic plans to address climate change issues (eg. SEAP, SECAP, SUMP) through energy efficiency measures, none of these currently address the embodied energy and carbon challenges for achieving true carbon neutrality. The work carried out and included in this report is three-fold: it matches 1) the urban context and existing policies for the built environment and forestry sector with 2) the drivers, perceptions, wood value chain state of play in each EAC; and 3) based on these results, it formulates possible policy pathways suitable for the specific carbon neutrality goals and expectations of very different cities across Europe. This work is achieved through an indicator-driven analysis method focused on four evaluative dimensions (socio-demographic context, environmental context, the regional territorial capital, and economic and market context) and through plan and policy review. A synthetic overview of the commonalities and differences of the EAC contexts in terms of current development trends is presented, as well as a comparative assessment of different levels of support for multi-storey wood buildings through the specific national, regional, and local policies and regulations. Further, this analysis is corroborated with a qualitative assessment of stakeholder perceptions, needs, challenges, and opportunities, as well as the main barriers for the wood value chain, perceived through the wider groups of stakeholders involved on behalf of the EACs. Forwards, as an interim result of this ongoing project, the paper explores possible specific pathways to bring the challenge of accounting for embodied carbon to the forefront of planning and policy-making based on the main findings in each EAC. Finally, the paper discusses the added value brought at the European level in terms of possible replicability in other cities on two layers: (1) analysis framework methodology for finding strategic entry points for multi-storey wood building support and (2) policy integration directions and long term actions to enable cities to understand and address true carbon neutrality through different tools according to their specific context.
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4: Resilience and adaptability. Al-Waha: promoting glocal solutions
Deputy Director
assistant manager / urban planner

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