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At NIDO, we strongly advocate for biobased construction, making it an integral part of our building process. Biobased construction involves the exclusive or predominant use of building materials derived from organic, renewable sources. This includes materials sourced from plants, trees, agricultural waste, and even animals (such as sheep wool for insulation). This stands in contrast to traditional building materials, which often come from non-renewable fossil resources.

Discover how we could help you with a biobased project

Natural & renewable construction

All biobased construction materials share the common feature of being derived, at least partially, from living organisms. Hence, a key characteristic of biobased construction is the renewability of these materials. Unlike materials sourced from fossil reserves, biobased materials are infinitely renewable. To learn more about this, refer to our circular construction vision.

Fortunately, an increasing number of people recognize the importance of biobased materials. This has led to a growing list of crops and products used in the construction of biobased or ecologically built structures. For inspiration, refer to our article on biobased raw materials and products.

Biobased materials capture CO2

As plants, crops, or entire forests grow, they absorb CO2 in their biomass. They do this by extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into organic material through photosynthesis, powered by sunlight.

At the end of a plant’s life cycle, it decomposes and releases the stored CO2 back into the air. By harvesting mature crops or trees before they decompose and replanting new ones that will grow and absorb CO2, we effectively remove net CO2 from the air. When these harvested crops and trees are used in construction projects with long lifespans, we store CO2 in the built environment over time.

This CO2 storage at NIDO gives us a genuine sense of pride after completing a project. For instance, in our project Andel, the CLT (cross-laminated timber) structure alone stored 107 tons of CO2! This is apart from other materials like bamboo and wood fiber insulation that were used. To put this into perspective: a typical household emits about 19 tons of CO2 over a whole year!

Biobased construction for less CO2 emissions

The production of biobased construction materials generally requires less energy than conventional building materials, which often involve energy-intensive processes such as mining and chemical production. Biobased materials primarily rely on natural growth processes.

Additionally, biobased materials often result in much lower emissions related to transportation. They are usually lighter, making transportation more efficient. Heavy construction materials like concrete and steel require significantly more energy during transport, leading to higher CO2 emissions.

Moreover, biobased materials can often be produced locally, reducing transportation distances. More efficient and lighter transport, combined with shortened supply chains, results in reduced CO2 emissions from transportation.

Biobased construction provides health benefits

Many biobased materials have properties that, when applied correctly, can lead to significant health benefits.

Improved air quality and a healthier indoor environment are notable advantages. Wood and many other biobased materials can regulate moisture and breathe, enhancing indoor air quality. Wooden surfaces in a home stabilize humidity levels, reducing fluctuations and preventing the growth of molds and allergens. Moreover, biobased materials contain fewer toxic substances than conventional building materials, which often emit harmful compounds.

Specifically, CLT functions as a ‘variable vapor barrier.’ This means that CLT can absorb moisture during high humidity (in summer) and release it during low humidity (in winter). Especially in combination with breathable insulation and façade finishes, moisture can diffuse freely out of the home. To explore more about this and the health benefits, read our article on breathable construction.

Additionally, scientific research has shown that living in wooden environments is associated with reduced stress responses, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and an overall sense of well-being. Wood is often linked with a warm, soothing, and natural aesthetic, positively influencing our mood. Biophilic design, integrating natural elements into the built environment, is also becoming more popular and has been proven beneficial for residents’ well-being.

Biobased construction provides benefits for building physics

In addition to health benefits, biobased materials offer various advantages in building physics.

Due to wood’s lighter weight compared to conventional building materials, the construction of a wooden house is lighter than a concrete or brick house. This means wooden homes heat up faster since there is less ’thermal mass’ in the structure. Consequently, heating occurs more rapidly, benefiting energy consumption. The systems do not have to work as hard, allowing residents greater flexibility and quicker control over indoor temperatures.

When a concrete building heats up in summer, it often takes a long time for the heat to dissipate from the structure. This is also why heat stress is becoming increasingly problematic in larger cities, where biobased buildings (similar to trees in the city) could have a positive impact.

However, due to the lighter construction, a wooden house can become hot quickly. This is because of the low thermal mass, and the so-called low ‘phase shift,’ allowing heat to penetrate the structure rapidly. In contrast, biobased insulation materials are often slightly heavier than conventional materials like PIR or EPS. Applying biobased insulation materials results in a higher phase shift, meaning that heat penetrates the structure more slowly.

At NIDO, we always check the building physics of facades and roofs to ensure that indicators such as vapor permeability, phase shift, and insulation value are optimized. We also consider our specific construction methods in designing installations, often adding additional active cooling via heat pumps.

Want to learn more about NIDO’s vision?

Vision on circular constructionVision on sustainable construction