China’s Green Deal: Govt Supports Wood Frame Construction in Regions

ITTO: China's post-pandemic recovery to spur surge in demand for wooden building materials

Tue 02 May 23


China’s timber industry stakeholders are working to develop markets for ‘green’ building materials in rural areas, providing new opportunities for manufacturers post-pandemic.

Increased health awareness since the pandemic has spurred demand for environmentally safe wood products across China.

A recent survey by the China Wood Production Industry Association reveals 50% of home decoration consumers are primarily concerned about formaldehyde, while 30% are concerned about “energy saving and environmental protection.”

Around 20% choose “close to nature” as their preferred home decoration theme.

Given these findings, the Yokohama-based International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) anticipates a strong market for timber framing.

The advantages of timber frame buildings in the context of global energy conservation and emission reduction are gaining attention as wood frame buildings have natural advantages as carbon is fixed for a long period.

China to boost rural consumption of wooden building materials

Timber frame buildings are gaining attention for their natural carbon storage and energy conservation advantages.

An example of a large wooden house frame under construction in regional China. Footage courtesy of @QuantumTechnologyVn

Last month the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced a 12-month campaign to accelerate low-carbon development in the building materials sector.

The campaign will prioritise timber adoption, including wood framed building materials in the accompanying Green Building Materials Certification Directory.

“This year will be a year for promoting green building materials to five pilot regions in China’s rural areas,” says ITTO.

“With promotion, more consumers can gain a clear understanding of the concept of green building materials.

“Sales of green building materials in rural areas have played a positive role in improving the productivity of building material product manufacturers by lifting the consumption of green building materials, improving the quality of rural housing construction and promoting a good atmosphere for green consumption.”

ITTO says experience suggests it can take two years of practical experience to realise comprehensive promotion and 2022 was the first year that green building materials were sold in rural areas.

Although some achievements have been made, many supporting activities and implementation plans have not been implemented in pilot regions due to the impact of the epidemic.

“This year, as the impact of the domestic epidemic dissipates, the campaign to send green building materials to the countryside is expected to expand in a big way,” ITTO said.

Timber adaptation is booming – but not in Hong Kong

In a South China Morning Post article published on Sunday, Hong Kong’s outdated building code is criticized for failing to keep up with advancements in timber technology. The issue, according to Otto Ng, Design Director at LAAB, is the absence of guidelines that would enable the use of timber in structures or facades above 6 meters high.

Hong Kong, the city with the most high-rise buildings in the world, has building codes which makes building with timber too challenging for developers to attempt.

Ng clarifies, “This doesn’t mean that it’s not allowed. You can still submit a timber structure or facade proposal for the Buildings Department’s review and approval. However, you may need to tackle unprecedented challenges such as laboratory tests that would take years – and cost a lot. Therefore, nobody would ever try it.”

He argues that Hong Kong’s building codes have not adapted to timber technology advancements and calls for a renewed discussion on the subject, which he believes would be backed by the architectural community. Ng highlights the importance of timber’s unique aesthetic and, more significantly, its sustainability. He notes, “Timber is generally lighter than steel, concrete, and glass; it’s renewable as forests can regrow, and offers more design opportunities.”


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