Is it possible to continue innovating in the wood industry? Juan Picos, professor and researcher at the University of Vigo, is blunt: Yes, it is.
Picos, who was one of the experts who participated as speakers at the Treeconomics conference, “Wood in a sustainable economy” which took place in Madrid last June, explained that “we are in a world that is liquid and that should help us change the mentality of how we see economic sectors”, one of them being the forestry sector, of course.
The conference, organized by ProPopulus and sponsored by ING Spain to highlight the contribution of the forestry sector to the bioeconomy and climate change mitigation, brought together European experts from the entire forestry chain for one morning.
For Picos, the economic sectors must be seen as systems of processes and that innovation not only occurs in products but also in processes and business models.
He explained that from the forestry sector, “we have to assume the role of helping others to reduce their carbon footprint. Especially those that produce carbon more intensely..”
To do so, countless materials are being developed from wood and which can replace polluting and non-renewable raw materials. For example liquid wood to print transparent wood in 3D, or wooden textile fibres, in addition to engineered wood adapted to the needs of the construction industry.
Building the future with wood
In this sense, Julen Pérez, senior associate of the architectural studio Waugh Thistleton Architects Ltd., focused on sustainable architecture. They have carried out various construction projects with wood, fundamentally using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), and he stressed that “wood is a great alternative to other more polluting materials”
For Mr Pérez, wood “helps on two fronts”: on the one hand it is renewable, and on the other it preserves the forest surface and its function as a “carbon sink”.
He explained that architecture has an important role to play in climate change mitigation. By adopting wood products in their projects, architecture and the construction sector not only contribute to prolonging the carbon storage in wood, but also avoid many of the emissions generated by the manufacturing of other building materials or products such as concrete (substitution effect).
Furthermore, Pérez stressed, an architectural project using wood not only stores carbon, but being lighter and perfectly suited to prefabrication, it allows for faster implementation, less water and energy consumption and less waste.
Wood fibres on the catwalk
For her part, the sustainable fashion designer María Lafuente pointed out that in the field of fashion the challenge is to launch a message that is “not just aesthetical”. According to her, sustainable fashion is a “hymn to life” and her goal is “to achieve new challenges and find new materials, as well as alliances with people who share the same views”.
Her latest Autumn-Winter 2023 collection, which was presented last January within the framework of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Madrid, is called Sukha. This collection incorporates fabrics from forest fibres, such as tencel, manufactured by the Cantabrian company Textil Santanderina, who has the PEFC certificate for sustainable forest management.
In short, the sector faces the challenge of continuing to innovate, adapting to the needs of the future, in order to fulfil the task of guaranteeing the supply of renewable, sustainable and inexhaustible resources if properly managed.