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About the project

Decarbonizing construction processes – traditional solutions for modern problems

The aim of the project entitled “Decarbonizing construction processes – introducing zero-carbon natural building materials, including timber, to circular economy in the construction sector” is to raise awareness of the uses of natural materials and techniques in the construction sector, as well as of the opportunities for the reuse of building materials.

The construction sector is responsible for as much as 37 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions and consumes 38 percent of the global energy supply, thus significantly contributing to climate change and accelerating its disastrous consequences.

These damages can be reduced by using natural building materials and techniques, as well as by reusing materials recovered from dismantled builings. Today, natural building materials are not an eccentric whim, but a pragmatic, proven solution.

The large carbon footprint of conventional construction processes is caused primarily by the use of high-emission materials, such as concrete and steel, and the long distances over which they are transported. The fact that it reuses materials only to a small extent is also a significant factor – in other words, it operates in a linear model, as opposed to a circular model, i.e. in a closed loop, where as much “input” as possible is used again.

The answer to these problems is natural construction. Its main advantage is, of course, the use of materials whose production does not involve carbon dioxide emissions: timber, clay, straw, hemp or lime. Moreover, it is based on locally available and low-processed materials, and uses manufacturing techniques based on human work, without excessive use of energy-consuming devices. It is also worth keeping in mind that natural materials have a beneficial impact on health. They help regulate humidity, thus preventing the development of fungi and microorganisms, as well as improving air quality.

Natural technologies are low-emission, materials are easily biodegradable, and when a building reaches the end of its life, they can often be reused. Conventional, emission-emitting building materials can also be given a second life. If they are already on the market, it is worth using them for as long as possible – so that the carbon dioxide generated during their production does not go to waste and so that no new emissions are generated. Recycling involves not only cans and plastic bottles, but also, for example, steel construction elements or stone cladding.

Construction techniques based on natural materials have been known for hundreds of years. This does not mean, however, that they only work in small-scale projects with traditional aesthetics. On the contrary – for example, in Scandinavia more and more office buildings with most of the load-bearing structural elements made of timber are built. Natural building materials have already gone beyond the open-air museum, and when Polish producers, designers and users gain more experience and boldness in using them, their presence will be seen as a given.

The project entitled “Decarbonizing construction processes – introducing zero-carbon natural building materials, including timber, to circular economy in the construction sector” is implemented by IOŚ-PIB (The Institute of Environmental Protection – National Research Institute) and OSBN (Polish Natural Building Association). It is financed with a sum of 744 951 euro by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA grants. The aim of the project is to enable the development of the natural and timber building sector and the implementation of the principles of circular economy in the Polish construction sector. Working together for a green, competitive and inclusive Europe.

(photos: Sara Kulturhus press materials, Martinsons press materials/Jonas Westling, Zirkular press materials, Ziggy Liloia on Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed, Romancito77 on Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed)