The French government is poised to pass a law that stipulates that new public buildings will have to be built from 50 per cent biobased materials from 2022. It’s a timely shot in the arm for evangelists of mass timber construction (otherwise known as cross-laminated timber or CLT). Many have been frustrated by the slow uptake of such materials, despite their ability to significantly reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry, producer of upwards of 40 per cent of global carbon emissions according to some estimates. Timber construction does double duty in the battle against global heating, not only replacing carbon-intensive materials like steel and concrete, but also acting as a carbon sink.
The newly proposed legislation builds on commitments already in place for the development of Paris’s 2024 Olympic complex, which state that any building under eight storeys will primarily be constructed using timber. ‘There is no reason that what is possible for the Olympics should not also be possible for ordinary buildings,’ argued Julien Denormandie, the French Minister for Towns and Housing.
Advocates for mass timber cite not only its substantial green benefits, but also increased speed in construction, a reduction in dust and noise pollution, and better thermal performance. Add in the potentially huge cost savings over current alternatives once a robust mass-timber ecosystem is established and customer demand for biophilic spaces that incorporate more natural materials, and it would seem obvious for developers to champion wood.