Among the many difficulties that the construction industry currently faces, confronting the climate emergency continues to be one of the main challenges. In fact, considering that the sector is responsible for around 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, aiming towards net-zero, carbon-neutral architecture should and must be the top priority. Although there is a long way to go for most buildings to cancel out the amount of carbon dioxide they produce, the concept is quickly gaining traction and will certainly become the new norm as we look into the not-too-distant future. As a result, the following question arises: how can architects, designers and other actors involved in the industry contribute to sustainable design and net-zero architecture?
Simply put, the answer can be summed up in one word: innovation. Throughout the years, those from the design world have witnessed huge milestones in the construction sector, from digital fabrication to 3D technologies, more advanced construction techniques and improved manufacture processes. Therefore, they have acquired the necessary knowledge and tools to innovate, resulting in new, more-climate smart building materials and products. With this in mind, Swedish company Wood Tube, a member of the world leading bioeconomy cluster Paper Province, has launched a new innovative product that has recently entered its commercial phase: lightweight studs made of wood-based pulp. These are cost-effective, easy to work with and, above all, contribute to a more sustainable construction process – hence showing great promise in the mission towards net-zero architecture.
From a simple idea to an innovative construction material
A stud is a vertical framing member which, traditionally made of timber or steel, forms part of a wall or partition. They hold in place windows, doors, insulation, utilities and other crucial building elements. Wood Tube, however, is made of a wood fibre that is chemically or mechanically reduced to pulp and is typically used in the manufacture of paper. To get more insight and understand how the idea came about, we spoke with Tobias Söderbom Olsson from Wood Tube. He shared that the product was born when its inventors, Kurt Härdig and Patrik Kämpe, passed a construction site while they walked in the city and noticed the amount of steel used.
“With a background in the paper industry, they asked themselves: what if we could build with paper instead? With this idea stuck in their heads, they designed a stud to construct interior walls, and that’s how the Wood Tube paper stud was born.” - Tobias Söderbom Olsson
Contributing to a more sustainable built environment
Currently, the paper studs are manufactured in Säffle, Värmland (Sweden), a region known for its rich forests and strong bioeconomy, which is also where the raw material comes from. The result is a fully bio-based product that can be recycled like regular cardboard and is made from FSC certified paper, meaning that it is proven to come from responsibly sourced wood fibre. In this way, the material shows a lot of potential regarding sustainability, especially when compared to traditional wood and steel alternatives.
In fact, a life-cycle analysis showed that Wood Tube emits 14 times less CO2 than a steel equivalent, lowering emissions by 92%. Considering that these are used in large volumes, this is a significant difference. And when it comes to replacing wood, the advantage is that using paper as a raw material is very resource efficient, since one tree can make four times more paper studs compared to standard wooden options. In other words, less material is needed, leaving more trees to grow in the forest and, at the same time, reducing costs. After all, wood is a beautiful and extremely functional material, so using more of it for load-bearing structures or other architectural elements that can be seen and experienced – instead of hiding it inside a wall – seems to point towards the right direction. Thus, Wood Tube contributes to a more sustainable industry by drastically reducing CO2 emissions and using forest raw materials more efficiently.
Easy installation and various applications
Regarding installation, the process is quite simple and straight-forward. “The walls are built in a traditional manner compared to wall framing with steel studs, except you replace the steel with paper,” says Tobias Söderbom Olsson. And because of their light weight and softness, there is no heavy lifting or risk of cut wounds, significantly improving carpenters’ working conditions. Therefore, thanks to its easy installation, Wood Tube is ideal for a variety of uses. Even though the main application today is interior wall framing, they can be supplied in any shape and size to fit different functions. Hence, they are also suitable for furniture frames, creating rigid beds, sofas and doors, among others.
Recently, Swedish real estate company Vasakronan, together with construction company Veidekke, was the first to build with Wood Tube’s paper studs in Strömshuset, a well-known building with a strong environmental profile. Specifically, the studs were used in the interior walls of modern offices and commercial premises.
Looking into the future: affordable housing and greener cities
Ultimately, Wood Tube aims to contribute to a greener construction industry and enable access to safe, eco-friendly and affordable housing. How? By combining sustainability, high-performance, cost-effectiveness and simple installation, as well as making it easy for customers and architects to access and choose climate-smart products. In this sense, paper studs have the potential to revolutionize the housing sector and construction industry.
But to continue navigating the path towards net-zero architecture, it is pivotal to continue innovating, developing, and investing in other bio-based, resource-efficient products that prioritize the wellness of humans and nature. At the end of the day, contributing to a more sustainable built environment with environmentally responsible materials is a crucial step to ensure healthier and greener cities for future generations.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: The Road to Net Zero Architecture presented by Randers Tegl.
Randers Tegl aims to take responsibility and think sustainable as a part of reaching the goal of Net Zero. Both in terms of how building materials impact the climate and how the materials age, but also with a focus on architecture. That is why Randers Tegl created their sustainable series GREENER, which comes with full documentation in the form of EPD, so it is possible to use the product in technical calculation programs.
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