Climate change is a global challenge for our society that we can mitigate solely by working together and implementing a bundle of measures — the material wood plays an important role in this area because wood binds CO2.
The “Promote Wood” campaign stands for the importance of the material in climate protection. Without the increased use of wood in construction, adequate measures against climate change cannot be achieved. That is why GD Holz calls for the increased use of the material in its key demands. The possible uses of wood in construction are virtually unlimited; woods from all over the world are used in all their diversity and contribute to the reduction of CO2 in every building.
The issue is complex, and the approach of the key demands seeks to do justice to this complexity by addressing many different aspects in these demands, whether forestry, fiscal measures, training or building code law.
It is also important for us to point out the free and fair trade of timber worldwide — wood is a globally traded product, and laws and the due diligence obligations of importers ensure that all wood products on the market are legal and sustainable.
Why do consumers have to pay the full VAT rate for products made from nature’s most ecological material while a reduced rate applies to products such as meat involving high CO₂ production? Why is highly toxic heavy oil or aviation fuel exempted to such a major degree from value-added tax and oil tax while long-lived wood products are not taxed at favourable rates? We demand a reduced VAT of 7 percent on wood and wood products that have a wood content of at least 50 percent. This is the only method for rewarding consumers in the long term when they choose renewable raw materials for their purchases of furniture, wooden houses etc.!
Nature’s most ecological material is at a fiscal disadvantage.
One shopping trip to the supermarket and the rubbish bin is overflowing. It is filled with plastics that rarely find their way into the recycling loop and are instead incinerated. Although their production itself had consumed large quantities of oil, energy and water. Glass or aluminium have a similar polluting impact on the environment. But what about wood? The material is renewable, robust and binds CO2. That is why this ecological, high-tech natural product should also be promoted commensurately. Our opinion is that the simplest way to achieve this objective is to reduce the VAT on wood.
Simple reduction, huge impact
There are many ways to promote the production and sale of products. The government can set up extensive funding programmes, provide subsidies or change laws. We have stated demands of this type as well. But there is a very simple way to start the promotion almost automatically: lowering the VAT. This practise is already common for many things that are important for everyday life such as vegetables, milk, books or meat. Why then should the reduced VAT rate not be applied to wood as well? Wood is so key to our future and important to our lives that this step is long overdue.
How should it be reduced?
This will provide sustainable relief, and not only to the domestic timber industry. Indeed, consumers will have the opportunity to choose consciously low-priced wood products and, in making this choice, to promote actively the cultivation and care of forests. A win-win situation for everyone: the environment, consumers and all those employed in the timber industry.
Promoting the timber industry as an important CO2 storage facility
We go one step further in our demand. Because we know how important wood is for the storage of CO2. Our forests play a key role in climate protection. But while buyers of e-cars or photovoltaic systems can benefit from subsidies, there are no adequate subsidies for forestry operations. Yet they make tremendous contributions to the achievement of climate protection goals. To date, there is no more efficient material for storing large quantities of CO2 than wood.
This has led to our demand that the timber industry, an important player for climate protection, be supported through tax concessions!
Our forests naturally bind CO₂. We need the forest for our climate. There is only one solution: reforest and plant! We demand the conversion of monocultures into stress-resistant and sustainable mixed forests. We want farmland polluted by chemical fertilisers and pesticides to be converted into forests. This is the only way to increase the role of forests as important climate protectors. Currently 32 percent of Germany is covered by forests; we demand a target of 40 percent.
We need our forests and our forests need us
Everyone is talking about climate protection. Science and research are looking for ways to avoid CO2 emissions. While new electric cars or alternative energies are being showcased and draw strong attention from the media, an important player in climate protection is being ignored: our forests. Because wood binds CO2 in greater quantities than almost any other material and actively contributes to the protection of the atmosphere and our climate. We believe that more attention should be devoted to wood. It preserves our future by functioning as a huge CO2 storage depot, and every growing tree binds additional CO2.
No climate protection without trees — reforestation!
Practice in forestry in particular has been relying on monocultures far too long. Yet events in recent years have clearly shown us what it means when forests are dominated by monoculture growth. In dry summers, the forest dries out and becomes susceptible to pest infestation, has almost no resistance to storms or extreme weather. And drought increases the risk of forest fires. A sensible alternative is functioning mixed forests with native tree species supplemented by resistant species. By securing a regional mix in forests that is oriented to the conditions at the specific location, we increase stress resistance and secure the most efficient CO2 storage facilities we have today — our forests — over the long term.
Conversion of marginal land into mixed forest
We need more trees, that is undisputed. One step towards a sustainable mixed forest is afforestation. This means that we need to identify suitable land areas, especially marginal land (i.e. cultivated land that yields profitable returns solely with high use of chemicals), and to transform these areas into forests.
With the renaturation of these areas, we increase our storage capacities for CO2. Moreover, we benefit from an important side effect: we create new habitats for insects and animals. An increase in our forests contributes to greater biodiversity.
Our work aims to encourage forest owners to reforest, farmers to convert arable land, especially marginal land, into forests and public authorities to do more to promote our forests. The decision in favour of the energy transition was an important step. But it would be disastrous if simple solutions for storing CO2 such as afforestation and the conversion of arable land into forest did not receive the attention they deserve. We need the forests and they need our support!
In addition, we demand that at least two trees be planted for every tree cut down in a settlement area and that twice the area be reforested for every square metre of cleared areas in the forest.
The future belongs to sustainable construction. That is why we demand that wood construction be promoted by the government. The federal, state and local governments must set an example and construct public buildings with wood.
Funding measures to create incentives for wood construction
Consumers are supported by the public sector with Bafa funding or KfW loans when they switch to environmentally friendly heating systems. Funding is also available for the construction of energy-saving houses or for thermal insulation in existing buildings. While heating with wood is partially subsidised through the promotion of pellet or woodchip heating systems, funding for wood construction is non-existent. But we think that sustainable construction will become more widespread solely if it is promoted adequately. The best example can be found by looking beyond our borders to Sweden. In 2006, the town of Växjö decided to become a modern wooden town and in 2007 started building eight-storey wooden houses. By 2017, the market share of timber construction in multi-storey residential buildings had increased to 21 percent, and by 2025 an overall market share of 30 to 35 percent for all new buildings is possible. A powerful political statement has the effect of priming the market. We need this support in Germany as well, especially at the municipal level and with housing cooperatives.
Wood construction means genuine sustainability
Anyone who uses timber for wood construction is genuinely practicing sustainability. For one, wood is a renewable building material so no finite resources are used. For another, wood efficiently stores CO2. If houses are built with wood instead of concrete, huge amounts of CO2 can be stored instead of being released for the production of the concrete.
That is why we find it so surprising that wood construction is not being promoted. It is especially surprising because the polystyrene insulation materials used in many renovations of old buildings/passive houses are anything but sustainable, yet they are still being funded.
Public buildings should become pioneers
Along with efficient promotion of wood construction, the role model function of the public sector is another important factor for the spread of sustainable wood construction of buildings. If public administration has not been able to make progress on the energy transition with e-cars or alternative means of transport, it should at least not sit with folded hands as well when it comes to wood construction. We demand the consistent use of wood as a sustainable building material in public buildings. As a matter of principle, real estate owned by the federal government, the federal states or local authorities should meet all important aspects of sustainability. Wood is irreplaceable for such a goal. A legal framework for municipalities requiring wood construction or wood construction quotas in development plans should be created.
GD Holz supports the “German Wood Construction Award” and other similar measures. The award is an excellent means for drawing attention to construction with wood.
Wood is a renewable, climate-neutral building material with a long tradition and a promising future. For far too long, wood has been given too little consideration in the construction industry. Lawmakers must act and prioritise wood in the state building codes!
We can build more sustainably: with wood!
Sustainability is preached and demanded everywhere today, but not always realised. This is particularly evident in the construction industry. Steel, glass and concrete dominate the field, especially in multi-storey buildings although there are many other building materials that are more efficient in terms of resources and energy. The solution is so near and literally grows on our doorstep: wood!
What is the situation?
Historically, the fire resistance requirements for building components have been linked to the flammability specifications of the building materials used. This is why the state building codes have so many regulations restricting the use of wood. As of today, only Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia have understood that wood is an elementary component of a sustainable construction industry and have changed their regulations. As early as 2015, the Baden-Württemberg state government passed the most wood-friendly state building code in the country. Wood plays an essential role in this state. Among other measures, shorter approval procedures make it easier for builders to build houses with wood construction. In Berlin, the state building code was modified in 2018 to make it friendlier to wood construction. In the same year, Hesse issued a new wood construction guideline, which is reflected in the building code. North Rhine-Westphalia has been a member of this group since 01/01/2019.
But Germany consists of 16 federal states and it is a matter of chance where the builder wants to build. Wood construction demonstrates how arduous the path in Germany with its federal structures can be until innovations find their way into building codes. While the modifications of the state building codes in the aforementioned federal states have made it less complicated to use wood as a building material, jumping bureaucratic hurdles is the order of the day for wood construction in the rest of the country. Still, the new state government in Brandenburg has set down in its coalition agreement that it will launch a wood construction initiative and reform the state building code. The same is demanded of officials in charge of regulations in Thuringia.
In view of pressing issues in climate protection, the question arises as to why all federal states do not make their state building codes wood-friendly — immediately.
Wood is a much more intelligent material than is commonly thought
The material properties of solid wood represent outstanding qualities for building construction. Wood is elastic, easy to work with, yet stable, resilient and durable. Just pause for a moment and think about this. What material was used in what are presumably the oldest roof trusses in Germany? The oldest half-timbered houses in Esslingen, Göttingen and Limburg/Lahn are from the 13th century. What material is used for the basic frameworks of half-timbered houses? That’s right: they’re made of wood!
And yet the bureaucracy in many federal states still hinders multi-storey wood construction today. Projects such as the HoHo wooden high-rise in Vienna or wooden high-rise projects in the USA or Norway demonstrate what is possible using wood for construction.
We are convinced of the value of wood as a building material, which is why we demand that all state building codes in Germany take a step toward the future and finally drop bureaucratic barriers to wood construction!
In the future, wood will play a key role as an ecological building material in the planning and construction of buildings. The education programme for architects must be revised to give this fact due consideration. We demand that wood construction be elevated to a fundamental requirement in architecture studies. There is no other way to ensure that the building industry can adapt to the new requirements of ecology and sustainability! In the future, wood will play a key role as an ecological building material in the planning and construction of buildings. The education programme for architects must be revised to give this fact due consideration. We demand that wood construction be elevated to a fundamental requirement in architecture studies. There is no other way to ensure that the building industry can adapt to the new requirements of ecology and sustainability! It is one thing that wood is often used in the private building industry solely for the construction of roof trusses. But it is quite another matter when the innovative minds for new buildings do not have adequate contact with the principles of wood construction during their studies. There is simply a lack of architects who have worked intensively with wood construction.
In the future, wood will play a key role as an ecological building material in the planning and construction of buildings. The education programme for architects must be revised to give this fact due consideration. We demand that wood construction be elevated to a fundamental requirement in architecture studies. There is no other way to ensure that the building industry can adapt to the new requirements of ecology and sustainability! It is one thing that wood is often used in the private building industry solely for the construction of roof trusses. But it is quite another matter when the innovative minds for new buildings do not have adequate contact with the principles of wood construction during their studies. There is simply a lack of architects who have worked intensively with wood construction.
Where wood makes sense, wood should also be used
High-rise buildings like the HoHo in Vienna are not the only examples demonstrating that wood is a sustainable, extremely robust and at the same time flexible building material. Wood has been used for house construction for many centuries. But with the advent of aerated concrete and poured concrete, wood fell out of favour. For many architects and planners, modern building — unfortunately — still means building with concrete. They not only disregard how flexible and versatile wood is, but also forget that wood is a renewable raw material that stores CO₂. In contrast, sand, an essential ingredient of concrete, is becoming increasingly scarce as construction demand increases worldwide. In addition, the energy balance of cement is worse. It is absolutely necessary to rethink our approach to construction if we want to maintain our standard of living in the future. And the change in thinking starts with the education of architects, not with consumers and builders.
Architects need know-how and courage in wood construction
It is understandable that many architects give scant consideration to wood when planning a building if this material is almost completely unfamiliar to them. That is why the education for architects has to change. We demand the introduction of the compulsory subject “wood construction” to the architecture curriculum. Moreover, an internship in wood construction should be compulsory for architects. Without these measures, we cannot ensure that we will continue to have experts in the future who know how many different ways wood can be used in construction and how the best possible use of this renewable building material can be assured!
We will fulfil our responsibility as the German Timber Trade Federation and will hold talks with the German Chamber of Architects and the universities. At this time, we will present our case and work hard to convince others that only a sustainable building industry is future-proof!
We demand that vocational training in commercial trade and manual trades be promoted especially strongly. Without qualified employees, our SMEs will no longer be able to maintain the standards of their excellent reputation in 10 or 20 years’ time. We need more doers!
Everyone wants wood, but little is done to encourage its use
Consumers love to have beds, tables, cupboards or musical instruments, kitchens and flooring made of wood. They value the natural grain of high-quality woods, love the smell of wooden beams in their own homes and appreciate the stability and durability of solid wood furniture. We heat with wood, build with wood, live with wood every day. Isn’t the tremendous popularity of the material reason enough to promote training programmes that revolve around wood?
We need wood as a future-proof, ecologically sound raw material
Wood is an ecological, CO2-neutral raw material, fuel and building material that regrows and the forests in Germany are a natural part of our cultural landscape. The cultivation, use and processing of wood are part of an environmentally conscious utilisation of natural resources. It is all the more important that we train people to be able to work meaningfully and sustainably with this valuable raw material in the future.
“Career Wood”: no other industry is as diversified and vibrant as this one
If we think about wood and the associated vocational opportunities, we open the door to a broad range of job profiles. We can start with the foresters who care for our forests. Their work lays the foundation for high-quality timber that is sustainably harvested by the timber industry and processed in the sawmill. Finally, the natural material finds its way to tradespeople via the timber trade. Whether carpenters, roofers, joiners, parquet layers or upholsterers, they all work with wood. They put their trust in their solid training. In the woodworking trade, knowledge has been transferred from master to apprentice and journeyman for centuries. Every new master joiner, master carpenter or master roofer today stands in this long and proud tradition, which has now found a meaningful addition with digitalisation.
Wood lives and creates future prospects! Especially in the sector of manual trades. That is why there must be measures promoting the “career wood”!
What kind of promotional measures do we want to see?
Professions in the timber sector are future-proof because wood is an important component in almost all areas of life. Ultimately, the condition of our forests determines not only how we can continue to do business with wood, but also what happens to our climate.
Experts and doers whose joy and passion for wood have been heightened are increasingly needed in the manual trades sector. They are our future.
What kind of promotional measures do we want to see?
Wood must be transported from the forest to the sawmill to the trade to the tradespeople and to the final customer, and this is rarely a matter for a parcel service. We are dependent on well-trained lorry drivers and need support here, too. Obtaining driving licences must become less expensive, administrative processes in the transport sector must be streamlined, employment agencies should assume the costs for the long-term unemployed.
Will Germany’s forests be adequate to meet the country’s timber needs in the future if they are managed sustainably? If we want to strengthen wood construction for future generations, we have to ask this question. Existing trade barriers to the import of sustainable and legally harvested timber must fall. We demand the elimination of tariffs and the renunciation of quotas such as those that are common for plywood.
Free trade in timber is a prerequisite for sustainable timber management and CO2 storage.
Our forests are increasingly being managed more ecologically as can clearly be seen in the increase in FSC® or PEFC-certified forest areas. The positive consequence is ecologically diverse mixed forest systems that can bind large amounts of CO2. As the demand for wood in Germany continues to grow, however, global trade in wood must also be simplified and strengthened.
The path: no tariffs, no quotas, no trade barriers
If trade in timber is exempted from customs duties and quotas, the benefits will not be limited to strengthening the local timber processing industry and providing relief to domestic consumers. Global, sustainable timber trade ensures that forests are managed carefully and that wood is used sensibly as a CO2 storage medium instead of being cleared by fire or left to rot.
Use of wood from sustainably managed forests is active forest protection
Importing wood from sustainably managed forests actively helps to preserve these forests. The local population can earn a living from the timber and is not forced into converting the forests into arable land. Images of burning forests in Brazil or Indonesia are omnipresent in the media — fires set to prepare land for the cultivation of palm oil, soy or cattle that later also end up on German plates.
EU Timber Trade Regulation ensures legal timber
The EU Timber Trade Regulation (EUTR) — in force in all EU countries — obligates timber importers to implement a due diligence system ensuring that imported timber comes from legal sources. Compliance with the EUTR is strictly monitored in Germany and some neighbouring countries. It is an open secret, however, that the government authorities of some European states perform almost no inspections or set very low standards. These are the channels through which timber from controversial sources enters the EU and is offered here at low prices. German importers who prevent the import of such woods by expending tremendous efforts in personnel and costs are subject to a massive market distortion. If illegally logged timber is to be eliminated in the EU, policymakers must act urgently and, if necessary, force individual member states to enforce strictly the applicable laws. Equal rights for all in the EU.