timber buildings, vertical development, sustainability, biobased economy, environmental product declaration


Bioeconomy, circular economy, land use reduction, sustainable use of natural resources, reduction of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and recycling are the keywords which the building world must face in the near future, as the environmental emergency can no longer be postponed. In order to disseminate in the scientific community the different possibilities of timber as a sustainable building material throughout its whole life cycle and to provide the professionals with suitable decision-making tools for a conscious design, within the cultural and scientific scenario of the recent years, the paper serves as a moment of reflection highlighting how a closer integration between different sectors (forestry, building, energy, industrial and waste management) can find, in the use of timber, an opportunity to significantly reduce the overall impact of a built environment life cycle.


Architecture  |  Essays & Viewpoint

High-rise timber architecture. An opportunity for the sustainability of the built environment

pp. 93-122


Cesare Sposito, Francesca Scalsi

Author(s) Biography

Cesare Sposito, Associate Professor | Department of Architecture, Polytechnic School, University of Palermo, Italy
Francesca Scalsi, PhD, Architect and Research Manager | DEMETRA Ce.Ri.Med. (Centro Documentazione e Ricerca Euro-Mediterranea – Euro-Mediterranean Documentation and Research Center), Italy


Antikainen, R., Dalhammar, C., Hildén, M., Judl, J., Jääskeläinen, T., Kautto, P., Koskela, S., Kuisma, M., Lazarevic, D., Mäenpää, I., Ovaska, J.-P., Peck, P., Rodhe, H., Temmes, A. and Thidell, Å. (2017), Renewal of Forest Based Manufacturing towards a Sustainable Circular Bioeconomy. Reports of the Finnish Environment Institute 13/2017, Helsinki. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 July 2019].
Akbarnezhad, A. and Xiao, J. (2017), “Estimation and Minimization of Embodied Carbon of Buildings: A Review”, in Buildings, vol. 7, issue 5, pp. 1-24.
Bartlett, A. I., Hadden, R., Hidalgo, J. P., Santamaria, S., Wiesner, F., Bisby, L. A., Deeny, S. and Lane, B. (2017), “Auto-extinction of engineered timber: application to compartment fires with exposed timber surfaces”, in Fire Safety Journal, vol. 91, pp. 407-413.
Bechthold, M. and Weaver, J. C. (2017), “Materials science and architecture”, in Nature, International Journal of Science, vol. 2, article number 17082, pp. 1-20.
Bioökonomierat (2015), Bioeconomy Policy Part II. Synopsis of National Strategies Around the World, Office of the German Bioeconomy Council, Berlin. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 1st April 2019].
Boarin, P., Calzolari, M. and Davoli, P. (2018), “Due modelli costruttivi in legno: tradizione senza innovazione o innovazione senza tradizione?”, in Techne, vol. 16, pp. 68-78.
Borup, M., Brown, N., Konrad, K. and Van Lente, H. (2006), “The sociology of expectations in science and technology”, in Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, vol. 18, issue 3-4, pp. 285-298.
Bösch, M., Jochem, D., Weimar, H. and Dieter, M. (2015), “Physical input-output accounting of the wood and paper flow in Germany”, in Resources Conservation Recycling, vol. 94, pp. 99-109.
Ceccotti, A., Sandhaas, C., Okabe, M., Yasumura, M., Minowa, C. and Kawai, N. (2013), “SOFIE project: 3D shaking table test on a seven-storey full-scalecross-laminated timber building”, in Earthquake Engineering & Structural Dynamics, vol. 42, pp. 2003-2021.
CEN – Comité Européen de Normalisation (2004), Eurocode 5: Design of timber structures. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 July 2019].
Centro Studi Federlegno Arredo Eventi (2017), 2o Rapporto Case ed Edifici in legno. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 July 2019].
Dangel, U. (2016), Turning point in Timber Construction, a new economy, Birkhauser, Basel.
Decreto del Ministero delle Infrastrutture 17 Gennaio 2018, Aggiornamento delle «Norme tecniche per le costruzioni», Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 42 del 2018, Suppl. Ordinario n. 8. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 July 2019].
Decreto del Ministero delle Infrastrutture 14 Gennaio 2008, Approvazione delle nuove norme tecniche per le costruzioni, Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 29 del 2008, Suppl. Ordinario n. 30. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 July 2019].
Demirci, C., Málaga-Chuquitaype, C. and Macorini, L. (2017), “Seismic behaviour and design of tall cross-laminated timber buildings”, in Proceedings of 16th World Conference on Earthquake, Santiago Chile, January 9th to 13th 2017. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 July 2019].
Dixit, M. K., Fernández-Solís, J. L., Lavy, S. and Culp, C. H. (2010), “Identification of parameters for embodied energy measurement: A literature review”, in Energy and Buildings, vol. 42, pp. 1238-1247.
Dodoo, A., Gustavsson, L. and Sathre, R. (2009), “Carbon implications of end-of-life management of building materials”, in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, vol. 53, issue 5, pp. 276-286.
EN 15804:2012+A1:2013, Sustainability of construction works – Environmental product declarations – Core rules for the product category of construction products. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 07 May 2017].
Esala, L., Hietala, J. and Huovari, J. (2012), Economic Impacts of Wood Construction, PTT Reports 239, Helsinki.
European Commission (2015), Closing the Loop: an EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy, 614 Annex 1. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2019].
European Commission (2014), On Resource Efficiency Opportunities in the Building Sector, 445 final. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 April 2019].
European Commission (2012a), Innovating for Sustainable Growth: a Bioeconomy for Europe, 60 final. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 April 2019].
European Commission (2012b), A Stronger European Industry for Growth and Economic Recovery, 582 final. [Online] Available at: PDF [Accessed 13 April 2019].
European Commission (2011), Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, 571 final. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 1st April 2019].
European Commission (2010), Energy Efficient Buildings PPP. Multi-annual roadmap and longer term strategy. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 1st April 2019].
Favole, P. (2017), “Architettura in legno. Naturalità pragmatica vs positivismo astratto”, in Arketipo, vol. 114, pp. 22-23.
FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2016), “Forestry for a low-carbon future Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies”, in FAO Forestry Paper, n. 177. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 May 2019].
Food and Agriculture Organization and UNECE (2018), Forest Products Annual Market Review, 2017-2018. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 18 July 2019].
Gonzalez, M. and Navarro, J. (2006), “Assessment of the decrease of CO2 emissions in the construction field through the selection of materials”, in Building and Environment, vol. 41, pp. 902-909.
González-García, S., Feijoo, G., Heathcote, C., Kandelbauer, A. and Moreira, M. T. (2011a), “Environmental assessment of green hardboard production coupled with a laccase activated system”, in Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 19, issue 5, pp. 445-453.
González-García, S., Feijoo, G., Widsten, P., Kandelbauer, A., Zikulnig-Rusch, E. and Moreira, M. T. (2009), “Environmental performance assessment of hardboard manufacture”, in International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 14, issue 5, pp. 456-466.
González-García, S., Silva, F. J., Moreira, M. T., Pascual, R. C., Lozano, R. G., Gabarrell, X., i Pons, J. R. and Feijoo, G. (2011b), “Combined application of LCA and eco-design for the sustainable production of wood boxes for wine bottles storage”, in International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 16, pp. 224-237.
Gorvett, Z. (2017), Plyscrapers: the rise of the wooden skyscraper. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 July 2019].
Guardigli, L. (2014), “Comparing the environmental impact of reinforced concrete and wooden structures”, in Pacheco-Torgal, F., Cabeza, L. F., Labrincha, J. and de Magalhães, A. (eds), Eco-efficient Construction and Building Materials. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Eco-Labelling and Case Studies, Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge, pp. 407-433.
Guo, X., Liu, X., Shan, S., Zhao, W., Su, H. and Qingming, J. (2019), “Green approach toward sustainable adhesive: Synthesis and characterization of poly(myrcene sulfone)”, in Journal of the Taiwan Institute of Chemical Engineers, vol. 95, pp. 208-216.
Hahn, B., Vallée, T., Stamm, B. and Weinand, Y. (2014), “Moment resisting connections composed of friction-welded spruce boards: experimental investigations and numerical strength prediction”, in European Journal of Wood and Wood Products, vol. 72, issue 2, pp. 229-241.
Hammond, G. and Jones, C. (2019), Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE). Version 3.0 Beta. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 20 August 2019].
Hammond, G. P. and Jones, C. I. (2008), “Embodied energy and carbon in construction materials”, in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Energy, vol. 161, issue 2, pp. 87-98.
Herczeg, M., McKinnon, D., Milios, L., Bakas, I., Klaassens, E., Svatikova, K. and Widerberg, O. (2014), Resource Efficiency in the Building Sector. Final report, ECORYS and Copenhagen Resource Institute, Rotterdam. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 22 February 2019].
Howard, J. L., McKeever, D. B. and Liang, S. (2017), U.S. Forest Products Annual Market Review and Prospects, 2013-2017, Research Note, FPL-RN-0348, Madison (WI). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 18 July 2019].
Hurmekoski, E. (2016), “Long-term outlook for wood construction in Europe”, in Dissertationes Forestales, vol. 211, pp. 1-57. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 July 2019].
Hurmekoski, E., Jonsson, R. and Nord, T. (2015), “Context, drivers, and future potential for wood-frame multi-story construction in Europe”, in Technological Forecasting Social Change, vol. 99, pp. 181-196.
Hurmekoski, E., Pykäläinen, J. and Hetemäki, L. (2018), “Long-term targets for green building: explorative Delphi backcasting study on wood-frame multi-story construction in Finland”, in Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 172, pp. 3644-3654.
ISO 14025 (2006), Environmental labels and declarations – Type III environmetal declarations – Principles and procedures. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 08 May 2017].
ISO 14040 (2006), Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and Framework. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 06 May 2017].
IVALSA – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (2011), La casa di legno di sette piani che resiste ai sismi. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 15 January 2014].
Jarský, V. (2015), “Analysis of the sectoral innovation system for forestry of the Czech Republic. Does it even exist?”, in Forest Policy and Economics, vol. 59, pp. 56-65.
Kaufmann, M., Kolbe, J. and Vallée, T. (2018), “Hardwood rods glued into softwood using environmentally sustainable adhesives”, in The Journal of Adhesion, vol. 94, issue 11, pp. 991-1116. (2016), Towards Adhesive Free Timber Buildings. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 May 2019].
Koppelhuber, J. (2017), “Industrialized timber building systems for an increased market share: a holistic approach targeting construction management and building economics”, in Procedia Engineering, vol. 171, pp. 333-340.
Kuzmanovska, I., Gasparri, E., Tapias Monne, D. and Aitchison, M. (2018), “Tall timber buildings: emerging trends and typologies”, in Proceedings of 2018 World Conference on Timber Engineering (WCTE 2018), 20-23 August, Seoul, South Korea. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 8 May 2019].
Lazarevic, D., Kautto, P. and Antikainen, R. (2019), “Finland’s wood-frame multi-storey construction innovation system: analysing motors of creative destruction”, in Forest Policy and Economics, pp. 1-11. In press, corrected proof, available online since 19 January 2019 at: [Accessed 6 June 2019].
Lucon, O., Ürge‐Vorsatz, D., Ahmed, A., Akbari, H., Bertoldi, P., Cabeza, L., Eyre N., Gadgil, A., Harvey, D., Jiang, Y., Liphoto, E., Mirasgedis, S., Murakami, S., Parikh, J., Pyke, C. and Vilariño, M. (2014), “Buildings”, in Edenhofer, O., Pichs-Madruga, R., Sokona, Y., Farahani, E., Kadner, S., Seyboth, K., Adler, A., Baum, I., Brunner, S., Eickemeier, P., Kriemann, B., Savolainen, J., Schlömer, S., von Stechow, C., Zwickel, T. and Minx, J. C. (eds), Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 671-738. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 4 March 2019].
Minkov, N., Schneider, L., Lehmann, A. and Finkbeiner, M. (2015), “Type III Environmental Declaration Programmes and harmonization of product category rules: Status quo and practical challenges”, in Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 94, pp. 235-246.
Moubarik, A., Pizzi, A., Allal, A., Charrier, F. and Charrier, B. (2009), “Cornstarch and tannin in phenol-formaldehyde resins for plywood production”, in Industrial Crops and Products, vol. 30, issue 2, pp. 188-193.
Nairong, C., Qiaojia, L., Peitao, Z., Jiuping, R., Qinzhi, Z. and Jianping, S. (2019), “A sustainable bio-based adhesive derived from defatted soy flour and epichlorohydrin”, in Wood Science and Technology, vol. 53, issue 4, pp. 801-817.
Ojea, E., Loureiro, M. L., Alló, M. and Barrio, M. (2016), “Ecosystem services and REDD: estimating the benefits of non-carbon services in worldwide forests”, in World Development, vol. 78, pp. 246-261.
Oliver, C. D., Nassar, N. T., Lippke, B. R. and McCarter, J. B. (2014), “Carbon, fossil fuel, and biodiversity mitigation with wood and forests”, in Journal of Sustainable Forestry, vol. 33, issue 3, pp. 248-275.
Ouyang, Z., Zheng, H., Xiao, Y., Polasky, S., Liu, J., Xu, W., Wang, Q., Zhang, L., Xiao, Y., Rao, E., Jiang, L., Lu, F., Wang, X., Yang, G., Gong, S., Wu, B., Zeng, Y., Yang, W. and Daily, G. C. (2016), “Improvements in ecosystem services from investments in natural capital”, in Science, vol. 352, issue 6292, pp. 1455-1459.
Perkins+Will (2014), Summary Report: Survey of International Tall Buildings. Report issued by Forestry Innovations Investment and Binational Softwood Lumber Council. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6 July 2019].
Ramage, M., Foster, R., Smith, S., Flanagan, K. and Bakker, R. (2017), “Super Tall Timber: design research for the next generation of natural structure”, in The Journal of Architecture, vol. 22, issue 1, pp. 104-122.
Ruuska, A. and Häakkinen, T. (2014), “Material efficiency on building construction”, in Buildings, vol. 4, issue 3, pp. 266-294.
Sathre, S. and González-García, S. (2014), “Life cycle assessment (LCA) of wood-based building materials”, in Pacheco-Torgal, F., Cabeza, L. F., Labrincha, J. and de Magalhães, A. (eds), Eco-efficient Construction and Building Materials. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Eco-Labelling and Case Studies, Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge, pp. 311-337.
Sathre, R. and O’Connor, J. (2010), A Synthesis of Research on Wood Products and Greenhouse Gas Impacts, 2nd edition, Technical Report TR-19R, FPInnovations, Forintek Division, Vancouver. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6 May 2019].
Scalisi, F. and Sposito, C. (2019), “Measure the Embodied Energy in Building Materials: An Eco-Sustainable Approach for Construction”, in Sayigh, A. (ed.), Renewable Energy and Sustainable Buildings. Innovative Renewable Energy, Springer, Cham, pp. 245-255.
Smith, R. E., Griffin, G. and Rice, T. (2015), Solid Timber Construction, Process Practice Peformance. Report sponsored by American Institute of Architects, USDA Forest Products Laboratory and FPI Innovations. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 July 2019].
Stamm, B., Natterer, J. and Navi, P. (2005), “Joining wood by friction welding”, in European Journal of Wood and Wood Products, vol. 63, issue 5, pp. 313-320.
Suter, F., Steubing, B. and Hellweg, S. (2017), “Life cycle impacts and benefits of wood along the value chain: the case of Switzerland”, in Journal fo Industrial Ecology, vol. 21, pp. 874-886.
Tebbatt Adams, K., Osmani, M., Thorpe, T. and Thornback, J. (2017), “Circular economy in construction: current awareness, challenges and enablers”, in Waste and Resource Management, vol. 170, issue WR1, pp. 15-24.
Thom, D. and Seidl, R. (2016), “Natural disturbance impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity in temperate and boreal forests”, in Biology Review, vol. 91, pp. 760-781.
Thormark, C. (2006), “The effect of material choice on the total energy need and recycling potential of a building”, in Building and Environment, vol. 41, pp. 1019-1026.
Toppinen, A., Autio, M., Sauru, M. and Berghäll, S. (2018a), “Sustainability-Driven New Business Models in Wood Construction Towards 2030”, in Filho, W. L., Pociovălișteanu, D. M., Borges de Brito, P. R. and Borges de Lima, I. (eds), Towards a Sustainable Bioeconomy: Principles, Challenges and Perspectives, Springer, Cham, pp. 499-516.
Toppinen, A., Röhr, A., Pätäri, S., Lähtinen, K. and Toivonen, R. (2018b), “The future of wooden multistory construction in the forest bioeconomy: a Delphi study from Finland and Sweden”, in Journal of Forest Economics, vol. 31, issue 1, pp. 3-10.
Toppinen, A., Sauru, M., Pätäri, S., Lähtinen, K. and Tuppura, A. (2018c), “Internal and external factors of competitiveness shaping the future of wooden multistory construction in Finland and Sweden”, in Construction Management and Economics, vol. 37, issue 4, pp. 1-16.
Truong, N. L. and Gustavsson, L. (2013), “Integrated biomass-based production of district heat, electricity, motor fuels and pellets of different scales”, in Applied Energy, vol. 104, pp. 623-632.
Tykkä, S., Mccluskey, D., Nord, T., Ollonqvist, P., Hugosson, M., Roos, A., Ukrainski, K., Nyrud, A. Q. and Bajric, F. (2010), “Development of timber framed firms in the construction sector: is EU policy one source of their innovation?”, in Forest Policy and Economics, vol. 12, issue 3, pp. 199-206.
UN Environment (2018), Global Status Report 2018: Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient building and construction sector, Global Alliance for Building and Construction, International Energy Agency. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 May 2019].
Wang, L., Toppinen, A. and Juslin, H. (2014), “Use of wood in green building: a study of expert perspectives from the UK”, in Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 65, pp. 350-361.
Werner, F. and Richter, K. (2007), “Wooden building products in comparative LCA: a literature review”, in International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 12, issue 7, pp. 470-479.
Widsten, P. and Kandelbauer, A. (2008), “Adhesion improvement of lignocellulosic products by enzymatic pre-treatment”, in Biotechnology Advances, vol. 26, issue 4, pp. 379-386.
Wood Solutions (2017), Mid-rise Timber Buildings, Class 2, 3 and 5 Buildings. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 14 July 2019].
Zuo, J. and Zhao, Z. (2014), “Green building researchecurrent status and future agenda: a review”, in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 30, pp. 271-281.