Wood v. concrete: which is more climate friendly? | key4.ch

Fact check: wood or concrete – which is more climate friendly?

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08.11.2022 | 3 minutes

As a modern building material, it is impossible to imagine contemporary architecture without it: concrete. Its rough, cool surface not only inspires design enthusiasts, but also offers many structural advantages. But in terms of environmental friendliness, the material has a bad reputation. Concrete is often even referred to as a real “CO2 guzzler”. Wood is considered a more climate-friendly alternative. But is the natural raw material actually better suited to ecological construction? We investigate this myth in the following fact check.

Assertion: wood is a more ecological building material than concrete.

It is difficult to make a clear statement about the climate friendliness of a building material. This is because it is not sufficient to simply determine whether or not the material is a renewable resource. Factors such as energy consumption during the manufacturing process, service life, and disposal or recycling options also play a decisive role. So which comes out top in this comparison – wood or concrete?

Concrete – the most important building material of our time

Whether it’s for a single-family home in the countryside, a skyscraper in the city or a new highway tunnel – concrete is used on a daily basis all over the world. It offers countless application possibilities and is extremely durable. The gray substance is made from a mixture of sand, gravel and water combined with cement. The real problem for the environment in this compound is the cement. As confirmed by the WWF, around 8 percent of global CO2 emissions can be attributed to the production of cement alone. The consumption of energy in the production of concrete is also very high. In addition, combined substances are, by their very nature, difficult to dispose of or recycle. This is not consistent with being climate friendly.

Wood – a fashionable material with a future

Wood was one of the main materials used by our ancestors to build their houses long ago. In recent years, wood has regained popularity as a natural building material. This is because the material meets a key sustainability criterion simply by being a renewable raw material. Another unique feature of wood is that it is considered CO2 neutral. Nevertheless, as stated by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) with regard to the ecological sustainability of wood, the negative effect on the emission of greenhouse gases such as methane or CO2 due to deforestation cannot be disregarded. In fact, trees also store carbon dioxide and therefore even help to reduce the greenhouse gas content of our atmosphere. This results in the neutrality described above, as the CO2 generated by transport and deforestation can be partially offset. However, this only applies if the wood is domestic and transport routes can be kept short as a result. Energy consumption in the manufacturing process is also low. What is more, wood is easy to recycle. The natural building material comes off worse than concrete in terms of durability. To prevent damage to a wooden house due to weathering and moisture, the material requires additional treatment.

A comparison of climate friendliness: concrete and wood



The building material is durable and flexible to use.

Wood is a renewable resource.

The cement in concrete causes 8% of global CO2 emissions.

Wood stores CO2, which reduces the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere.

A huge amount of energy is consumed during the concrete production process.

Very little energy is required for the production of wood.

As a mixed material, concrete is difficult to recycle.

Wood is easy to recycle

To be durable, wood requires additional treatment.

Scientists at the Laboratory of Construction Materials at EPFL Lausanne are convinced that wooden buildings will not be sufficient to meet the construction needs of our society in the future. They believe in the potential of concrete as a building material and are researching a cement mixture that produces less CO2 during production. Its formulation should have a decisive influence on the ecological footprint of the material and enable climate-conscious construction, even with concrete. You can find more information about the project here.

Another promising approach is being pursued by the researchers of the National Research Programme “Resource Wood”. Their work focuses on a hybrid material, i.e. wood-based concrete. In some of the blends envisaged, the wood content is over 50 percent. The resulting savings in cement – the climate-damaging material in concrete – lead to a large reduction in CO2. You can find more information about the project here.

Does your property have a sustainability certificate?

Then please get in touch and we will check whether you are eligible for a Green Mortgage with a favorable interest rates.

Conclusion: true.

If you want to build in a climate-friendly way, you should rely more on wood and less on concrete. A wooden house not only visually radiates more warmth than one made of concrete, it is also more ecological in multiple respects. The energy consumption during production, the recycling possibilities and the renewable nature of wood surpass concrete, as a mixed material, when it comes to constructing a climate-friendly building. Are you planning to build your own home in the future? Then, for all the reasons listed, wood could be a suitable and, above all, ecological alternative to concrete.

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