Is Forest Waste the Solution for Low Carbon Wall Cladding?

Scientists create new products out of woody residues and waste

Sun 26 Nov 23


Forest waste and fungi, often left after harvest, can be turned into high-value products and engineered into a substitute for interior wall cladding.

The breakthrough can not only help the construction industry face the global shortage of timber but also help decarbonise buildings and create circular value-added products to meet future demand.

That is according to new research from Portuguese scientists who claim to have invented a new and unique thermal and acoustic product that can compete with traditional interior wall products.

They claim that the product could be “a more balanced choice” than traditional cladding products “because it’s as sustainable as wood but as efficient as synthetic cladding,” but just as importantly, “it comes at a much lower cost.”

The product came from a project run by the University of Coimbra known as the “Value2Prevent project”, which aims to optimise forest biomass, add value to forests and increase product yields.

João Martins, a Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE) researcher, said the value proposition lies in making biomass from clearing forests more valuable.

“Forest producers don’t have much incentive to clear land because the biomass produced from clearing is not very valuable,” he said.

“It must be transported to specific locations,” acknowledging that the transport and collection costs can be expensive.

“So, the returns must be high to make it worthwhile for them.” 

The idea is to use forest biomass waste, inoculate it with a fungus that can partially degrade the biomass, and create a type of cement by aggregating all the particles into a block. 

“This product is then dried to inactivate the fungus and can then be used inside two wooden planks, replacing the synthetic materials currently used,” he said.

“Biomass is relatively cheap, and we can easily produce these blocks.”

So far, tests have been carried out on forest waste from eucalyptus, maritime pine, strawberry trees and a mix of shrubs, and scientists are confident that the research can be commercialised.

This could include future testing on reused plastic, cork, and rubber, making these materials’ acoustic and thermal properties even more effective.

It comes as Wood Central reported last week that waste-treated softwoods from agricultural food wastes are being created to emulate tropical hardwoods in external cladding products.

The product, known as Kebony, is used in decking and cladding, and there are hopes that the product can be used as a substitute for at-risk tropical hardwoods like Mynamar Teak, which is used extensively in European and North American boat-building markets.

Steel-based cladding is one the most popular materials used in internal and external cladding; however, according to the UN, steel (along with aluminium and concrete) is among the most carbon-intensive materials in the construction industry.

A report published in late September claims that the global building and construction industry can save up to 40% of global emissions by substituting carbon-intensive building materials, like steel and concrete, for bio-based materials, including timber, bamboo, and biomass.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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