BERN, SWITZERLAND – Wood is back! The Swiss construction industry has been steadily increasing its use of wood to build homes, solo or as part of hybrid constructions with other materials.
New figures were published Wednesday 26 September by the Federal Office for the Environment, at the same time that a booklet, “The Swiss People and Their Forests” was issued.
Use of wood in homes is also on the rise, particularly native woods, with oak particularly popular for flooring and hard woods for furniture.
In 2001 some 2.53 million cubic metres of wood were used for construction, out of a total of roughly 10m m3 consumed annually, but by 2009 the construction industry’s use had grown to 2.77 million m3.
The trend continues, and renovations for rental units are part of the change: 85 building permits for renovations using wood were issued in 2009 and in 2011 the number was 315.
Multi-storey buildings are also now using wood, a change from the past.
In total, 2011 saw some 500 new wood-based buildings in Switzerland, a 70 percent increase in three years.
One-third of Switzerland is forest
Forest management: 85 percent of Swiss support strict forest management, a recent survey for the government shows: dogs on leashes, no vehicles, bicycles required to stay on paths.
One-third of Switzerland is forest land, and one-third of that total is in the Alps.
The Jura, which is 41 percent wood-covered, has the greatest density of trees.
Some 30 percent of trees are deciduous and 30 percent conifers.
Switzerland’s total forest area is increasing, although the changes in forest area vary significantly from region to region.
The strongest increase in forest area can be observed in the Alps and in the Southern Alps.
Nearly 70 percent of the forests are publicly owned, by the federal or cantonal or communal governments. Many communes in heavily wooded areas have forestry services that maintain the tree areas but also sell cut wood and sometimes playground equipment and furniture, particularly rougher outdoor furniture, to the public.
From forest primeval to a love of it in the home
The environment office notes that there are no more absolutely untouched forests in Central Europe.
A primeval forest is defined as being a forest which has “not been substantially changed” by man, it says.
“In Switzerland there are a large number of small inaccessible areas of forest which can be counted as primeval forest. They grow on cliff slopes and rocky outcrops and have therefore never been managed. There are near to 33,400 hectares of “inaccessible forest” amounting to 2.7% of the entire forest area. There are also three larger forest areas which are counted officially as primeval forest: the vast Bödmeren spruce forest on karst in the Muotatal valley (Canton Schwyz), the fir forest of Derborence (Canton Valais) and the small spruce forest of Scatlé (Grisons).”