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System mapping of wood in construction uncovers key insights for land decarbonisation

The Wood in Construction Systems Map, developed by a team at ECCI and the University of Edinburgh, aims to uncover ways to increase the carbon benefits of wood fibre in UK construction.

The map is part of ECCI's EIT Climate-KIC Landscapes as Carbon Sinks Deep Demonstration, a project working towards designing a systemic transformation of the land use sectors to make the whole of Scotland a net carbon sink, supporting the Scottish Government's target of becoming carbon neutral by 2045.

The initiative brings together research, policy development, business innovation, access to financial investment, and land management expertise to co-design and deliver low-carbon economies and landscapes.

Wood in Construction System Map

The Landscapes as Carbon Sinks Deep Demonstration team looked at what is currently enabling and inhibiting the use of wood from Scottish forests in the UK construction sector.

To bring their findings to life, Galina Toteva and Hester Robertson of ECCI and the University of Edinburgh created the interactive “Wood in Construction System Map.”

Hester Robertson, Project Manager, Landscapes as Carbon Sinks said: "The map shows the causes and effects of key forces in a system, exploring how they connect in causal loops and how these loops interact with one another. It aims to answer the question ‘why is the system the way it is?’ or in this instance ‘why, given its clear environmental benefits, is the use of wood in construction not more prevalent?’

"The map is not meant to be a complete catalogue of everything that influences the system. Instead, it aims to display the most important areas of focus that are key to answering the question.

"The benefits of using wood in construction include storing carbon within buildings and displacing high-carbon materials like cement, brick and steel. Specifically, timber frame buildings store 50 per cent more carbon than an equivalent masonry structure and buildings made from cross-laminated timber store 400 per cent more carbon than concrete ones."

EIT Climate-KIC Deep Demonstrations

Landscapes as Carbon Sinks is one of eight Deep Demonstrations launched by EIT Climate-KIC, which together offer examples of the ambitious, “1.5°C-consistent systems transitions” called for by the IPCC reports, climate scientists, activists and European policymakers. Deep Demonstrations of turning landscapes from carbon sources to sinks tackle a lack of investment, as well as the need to forge new social contracts with soil and forests and line-up value-chain incentives. Current partners include Chalons-en-Champagne, a French landscape ecosystem, and the Government of Scotland.

The Scottish Landscapes as Carbon Sinks Deep Demonstration is a collaboration with the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) and the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes (CSFL).