France invests in wooden housing
The idea of building a wooden house is not particularly new. Far from favoring caves, prehistoric man was already capable of making relatively technical wooden structures. Long neglected in the face of the modern supremacy of concrete, wood construction resurfaced in the 2000s thanks to the collective awareness of the threats weighing on the global climate.
Wood, a noble and ecological material
Wood is thus part of a logic of sustainable development thanks to its ecological qualities. In 2012, according to a report by FBF's National Observatory for Wood Construction, 11% of new single-family homes in France were made of wood, as were 20% of extensions. Despite the decline in the global market since then, timber construction is encouraged and supported by government authorities, for reasons above all ecological but also economic.
Why build with wood ? The reasons are both economic, ecological and aesthetic. Wood is one of the “ecomaterials”, these materials having a very low carbon footprint on the environment. Lightweight, recyclable, easily transportable, wood powerfully reduces greenhouse gases by storing CO2. Its resistance and conservation capacities also allow it to challenge concrete constructions. Even if prices tend to increase, wood remains economical in particular thanks to its excellent thermal capacities (twelve times greater) than concrete, which blithely reduces the heating bill. Noble material and easily transformable, it allows quite aesthetic architectural achievements, according to a wide variety of wood species.
According to the National Wood Construction Survey, 18,970 individual wooden houses were built in France in 2012, as well as 7,360 collective dwellings, against 14,500 in 2014 (5,220 collective dwellings). This downward trend is not linked to a lack of enthusiasm for wood construction, but to the general decline in the construction market recorded over the same period; the market share of individual wooden houses thus remains stable, from 10.4% in 2012 to 10.6% in 2014. The Grand Est (Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine) is the most dynamic geographic area for the region. wooden construction, with 22% of new projects, or one in five houses.
Government efforts for sustainable development
As part of the famous Grenelle de l'Environnement in 2009, the French government took a close interest in the ecological potential represented by wood in the construction industry. A "timber construction plan" was launched the same year, updated in 2014. According to the Ministry of Ecology, the issues are thus focused on " The valuation of the hardwood resource in construction ", and on " The valuation the training offer with a view to strengthening the skills, the attractiveness of the trades and the performance of those involved in wood construction and renovation ”. The plan is not limited to only individual constructions and extensions, but also aims at the realization of wooden buildings of great heights.
To encourage wood construction, a “biobased building” label was launched in December 2012. Awarded by the Ministry of Housing, this label rewards works using biobased materials (with a low carbon footprint) in construction. It has three levels of certification: individual houses, industry, and other constructions (collective housing, offices, commerce, education, etc.).
Wood to save the planet?
A recent study by Carbone 4 (specialized in carbon strategy), if necessary, highlights the ecological interest of wood in climate preservation. Based on the hypothesis of a tripling of French wooden constructions by 2030, the study concludes with the consequent saving of 3 million tonnes of CO2. The carbon footprint of a detached wooden house is thus estimated to be half that of a concrete construction. This relief of the energy bill would at the same time lead to a profit of 170 million euros per year, and would lead, according to Carbone 4, to the creation of 3,400 jobs.
This attractive prospect remains for the moment compromised by a global construction market which is currently still at half mast. In addition, and to achieve these objectives within fifteen years, a strong commitment will be necessary at all levels, institutional and professional, coupled with a vast campaign to raise awareness of the ecological and economic interests of wood, still unknown to the general public.