The city of Amsterdam has just passed a new mandate that all new buildings from 2025 onwards must be constructed from at least 20% wood, or other biobased material such as cork or hemp. This is an attempt to reduce reliance on steel and concrete, materials which are CO2-heavy during production, and to help the Dutch capital meet its goal of climate neutrality or net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The agreement was signed by all 32 municipalities in the Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam (MRA), named the Green Deal Timber Construction.
According to the Amsterdam Institute of Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute), which is supporting the implementation of the Green Deal Timber Construction, the move is expected to reduce CO2 emissions in the city by approximately 220,000 tonnes a year. This is equivalent to the average emissions of 22,000 homes, it said. Nitrogen emissions are also expected to be reduced.
Timber is a popular alternative to steel and concrete as a construction material because of its sustainability credentials. It can sequester large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere and store it within a building, offsetting the CO2 generated by a building over its lifespan. This helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by the built environment, which is responsible around 40% of the emissions today.
To support the Green Deal Timber Construction agreement, sites for new construction projects will be designated across Amsterdam. The city will also invest in the research and development of timber and biobased materials for construction, as well as companies committed to helping the city achieve its goals.
The Green Deal Timber Construction will also help Amsterdam to be a circular economy, since timber and natural materials can be recycled and reused.
“Biobased materials, in particular the latest generation of mass timber products, are part of the solution to make our city climate-neutral and truly circular,” explained Arjan van Timmeren, professor at the AMS Institute.
Besides Amsterdam, other cities or countries have also taken up similar measures. New York, for instance, has approved the use of mass timber to construct buildings of up to 25.9m tall. France has also agreed that all new public buildings in the country must be built using at least 50% timber or other natural materials from 2022. However, in the UK, new government legislation makes it hard for architects to use timber in construction.