Demand-driven climate change mitigation and trade-offs from wood product substitution: The case of Swedish multi-family housing construction

Maximilian Schulte, Ragnar Jonsson, Jeannette Eggers, Torun Hammar, Johan Stendahl, Per-Anders Hansson

Multi-family housing construction (MFHC) with wood instead of concrete as frame material results in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, substituting wood for concrete in MFHC in Sweden until 2030, and onwards to 2070, could be a promising climate change mitigation option. But to what extent, and how would it impact Sweden’s forests? Here we assess climate and biodiversity implications – in terms of the area of old forest – of a completely wood-based future MFHC in Sweden. The wood required is assumed to be exclusively sourced as additional fellings in Swedish forests, thus carbon leakage from wood imports as well as displacement of other wood uses can be disregarded. Different types of timber frame systems and the role of varying future dwelling sizes are considered. We find that the wood needed for a complete substitution of concrete would result in very minor increases in harvests. We further register slight net additional climate change mitigation, irrespective of the wood construction system.

There is a small tradeoff between climate change mitigation and biodiversity, as the area of old forest reduces slightly. The largest climate benefit, and lowest impact on Swedish forests, is provided when using timber-light frame combined with reduced dwelling size.

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