Since India lifted a 27-year ban on using timber in public buildings, the country is now the world’s largest consumer of wood for residential construction.
According to the Indian Centre for Science and Environment, the country’s annual demand for wood is 63 million cubic metres – 30 million cubic metres for domestic production and 33 million cubic metres from imported sources.
Wood Central reports that India’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEFCC) drove the 2020 decision to lift the ban, citing “a boost for the economy, opportunities to generate jobs and encourage farmers to plant more trees.”
The decision marked a complete U-Turn from the 1993 ban, with the Modi Government looking to afforestation and low-carbon materials to fuel its surging economy.
As reported in July, India is emerging as a leader in global afforestation and has now set a target to restore 26 million hectares of forest land. In addition, the country plans to create 2.5-3 billion tonnes of additional carbon sinks.
In a 2020 interview with Preferred by Nature, Venturer Timberwork director Gary Hill noted that the change in the market occurred after 2012.
“We quickly moved away from traditional timber contracting and began investing heavily in CLT and glulam, investing heavily in prefabrication and modularisation to get more productivity out of our manpower,” Mr Hill said.
“Now (as of 2020), our target is set on India.”
Although Venturer Timberwork sees little scope for entering the multi-storey housing market, it has an established office in India.
In May, Wood Central’s Southeast Asia Contributor Ken Hickson reported that the company is behind the ambitious “V2 Building Concept.”
Based in Chennai, India, “V2” is a componentised building system aiming to create lightweight structures using locally grown plantation hardwood timbers, engineered together in a process akin to Cross Laminated Timber (CLT).
Not only are the timbers sustainably sourced and have low embodied carbon, but they must meet industry standards and maximise efficiency in production.
Venturerer Timberwork believes the new system could address housing needs in developing countries – like India – and is in talks with NGOs focused on housing affordability.
Replacing traditional building materials like concrete and steel with wood could reduce emissions by up to 69%.
Additionally, the increased use of wood in new urban constructions globally could help achieve 9% of 2030 emissions goals.
In the months after the decision to relax the ban, Venturer Timberwork received a substantial uptick in inquiries.
“Even ongoing developments with traditional build can be swapped and re-engineered very quickly,” Mr Hill said.
“We put forward our methodology, and it usually gets accepted for all the right reasons – cost, speed of construction and sustainability – which is a massive box to tick.”
However, after a century of colonial rule and, lately, changing forest policies, India is now suffering from a timber and forest deficit.
As reported at the most recent G20 meeting, 38% of Indian tree cover loss is due to mining, with just 3.5% of the country’s tree cover loss due to deforestation.
However, according to Aadarsh Mohandas, Preferred by Nature’s Regional Director for South Asia, India is an engine room for global supply chains for forest products.
Mr Monhandas believes it is now the right time and place for formalised quality certification and better supply chain management.
“About 70% of timber is imported from southeast Asia and Africa. Most of this is uncertified, and the quality is questionable,” he said.
“As demand is rising for ordinary timber and mass-engineered wood, certification must become part of this process to avoid the negative effects of illegal logging in supplier countries.”
Mr Mohandas and local stakeholders are working hard to strengthen awareness about legality issues and the benefits of certification in India.
“We are reaching out to reputed architects who are working with all the first mover niche projects now appearing around the country,” he said.
“They will be able to influence whether India’s building sector is choosing a sustainable path or continuing old habits.”
IndustryEdge identified that exports had risen to more than 144,300 cubic metres for the month.
Could India Build a Wooden Rocket?
Over the weekend, India successfully launched the Aditya-L1 spacecraft.
It is the first to study the Sun and is designed to travel 1.5 million km over four months, with Wood Central speculating a wooden satellite made from space wood might not be too far away.
As reported by Wood Central in May, an international team of scientists led by Kyoto University in Japan has made an exciting breakthrough, proving the viability of wood as a material for constructing space structures.
A statement released by the university confirmed that certain types of wood, particularly magnolia, could withstand the extreme conditions of space, showing negligible deterioration and maintaining robust stability.
Scientists increasingly consider timber a preferred building material for small satellites -especially in smaller satellites known as CubeSats.