UK: Built by Nature launches acceleration fund for mass timber construction

Photo: Tandem X Visuals/Unsplash

Built by Nature, a new network of industry and climate leaders and innovators, and a multi-million euro grant-making fund, is recently launched to accelerate the timber building transformation across Europe. The new organisation, founded by Laudes Foundation, supports the building sector’s pioneering developers, designers, investors, asset owners and insurers, alongside policymakers and city leaders, in the journey to fully decarbonise the built environment and work in unison with nature to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

With the built environment accounting for close to 40% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, Built by Nature’s mission is to drive forward the timber building transformation by reducing embodied carbon, safely storing carbon in our buildings for generations, and sequestering carbon by championing forest stewardship and regeneration.

Built by Nature’s Accelerator Fund was also launched to fund teams and solutions that scale up timber building and raise the bar on the positive climate impact of building with timber from sustainably sourced forests. It offers grants of between €50,000-250,000 to consortia of pioneering expert organisations for projects addressing the barriers to building with timber.

Funded projects can include designing new business models and collecting business case data, innovations and frameworks to increase the climate impact of timber buildings, regulatory innovations, or feasibility tests for large city-scale projects that start to shift the norm for the sector.

Donald Brenninkmeijer, chair of Built by Nature, commented: “With building space expected to double globally before 2050, we must reimagine the way we build, from a carbon-intensive industry to one that helps remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it adds. Accelerating the timber building transformation, in a way that works in unison with nature, is critical to address the built environment’s carbon footprint.”

At launch, the fund announced its first three projects: leading work by Holland Houtland, which aims to scale bio-based building through a new blended finance and valuation model; a New Model Building from the UK by Waugh Thistleton Architects in collaboration with expert fire engineers at University College London, setting out design principles that showcase a methodology for building residential developments using engineered timber; and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalunya’s Valldaura Labs (IAAC), which is convening frontrunners and an exhibition of state-of-the-art solutions ahead of Barcelona hosting major events such as European Forest City in 2022.

Andrew Waugh, founder and director of Waugh Thistleton Architects, said: “The New Model Building is a pre-warrantied system for a multi-storey residential building in engineered timber – and it will be open-source and adaptable. The time for change in the UK housing industry must be now; the industry urgently needs support, funding and legislation to kickstart that change. The funding we have received for this project will kick start the transformation that is desperately needed in UK house building.”

Built by Nature is calling for the built environment’s climate leaders and innovators across European markets to join its network. Part of its strategy is to embrace hybrid solutions, and it will look to proactively work with similar initiatives on low-carbon steel and cement, to create the needed change in the sector.