We Need to Change the Way we Build From Seeds to the City

40% off all global emissions are caused by the construction industry.

  • 13 Oct 2022
  • by
  • Lendlease Author Better Places

To develop our cities in a more sustainable manner, we must decarbonize concrete and steel and use more regenerative and renewable resources, such as timber. Italy is actively looking at measures to reduce carbon emissions. 

The City of Milan, as vice chair of C40, is helping to lead the way and committing to zero carbon targets to reduce embodied carbon emissions from the construction industry. While the material science behind using bio-based construction materials and engineered timber continues to advance, we have found that outdated perceptions and myths still act as barriers to adoption.

In this context Built by Nature, a network and grant-making organisation with a mission to accelerate the timber building transformation in Europe, has awarded a €250,000 Accelerator Fund grant to MIND, Milano Innovation District project, to support research into perception barriers to mass timber adoption in Italy.  

The research initiative will be coordinated by EIT Climate-KIC, the European Union's largest climate innovation initiative accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon world. The project will establish a physical and digital prototype building to drive understanding and adoption of mass timber, while maximising the amount of timber used in construction of the one-million-square metre Milano Innovation District (MIND) complex. 

Lendlease will provide co-funding of €528,000 towards the timber perception research and digital technology support through Lendlease Podium. 

The prototype demonstration project is designed to act as a collaboration centre for industry and policymakers while creating an important source of knowledge and innovation. Waugh Thistleton Architects are designing the prototypes, with other industry players   University College London, Arup and Stora Enso providing expertise and/or in-kind support throughout the project. Fondazione Politecnico di Milano is conducting a review of scientific literature on mass timber sustainability implications in the Italian market. 

Qualitative and quantitative economic, social, and environmental data points created by the Perception of Timber project sponsored by Built by Nature will build a robust and accurate, evidence-based learning that demonstrates timber’s social and economic feasibility in the Milan context and challenge (refute) uncertain and/or negative industry perceptions. 

Paul King, Managing Director Sustainability & Social Impact, Lendlease says: “To create places that are truly fit for the future we need to think and act fundamentally differently across the built environment sector. We need to design innovatively to facilitate efficient assembly and disassembly of buildings, using a range of materials that can be used repeatedly, and ultimately recycled to eliminate waste. We need to decarbonise traditional materials such as concrete and steel, but we also need to accelerate the adoption of inherently low-carbon technologies such as engineered timber. And we need to collaborate, reflect and share lessons more proactively as we will only succeed if we learn together. This initiative hosted in the Milano Innovation District (MIND) is central to this vision and adds to other similar industry collaboration efforts Lendlease is actively involved in Europe with the support of Built by Nature and other key actors around the world.” 

Together with the partners involved, several workshop have been designed and organized. The first workshop has acted as a catalyst to continue working in smaller groups on the priority actions we identified. The other workshops (one in September and one in December) will draw roadmaps for implementation and reflect on impacts achieved together.

Outputs of the project will be shared through Built by Nature and EIT ClimateKIC’s NetZeroCities partner networks in the following weeks.