Built by Nature Launches to Accelerate Mass Timber Construction as Critical Climate Solution

Built by Nature, a new network of industry and climate leaders and innovators, and a multi-million euro grant-making fund, launches today to accelerate the timber building transformation across Europe. The new organisation, founded by Laudes Foundation, supports the building sector’s pioneering developers, designers, investors, asset owners and insurers, alongside policymakers and city leaders, in the journey to fully decarbonise the built environment and work in unison with nature to remove carbon from the atmosphere. 

With the built environment accounting for close to 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally1, Built by Nature’s mission is to drive forward the timber building transformation: radically reducing embodied carbon; safely storing carbon in our buildings for generations; and sequestering carbon by championing forest stewardship and regeneration.

Built by Nature’s vision is for a built environment that works in unison with nature. Its partners, who are each leading on critical solutions to the challenges of the timber building transformation, include the newly-launched Bauhaus der Erde; the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at Cambridge University; the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA); Cities4Forests; and Climate-KIC.

Its network’s first cohort of industry frontrunners includes: global advisory, design, planning and engineering firm, Arup; sustainable architecture practice, Bennetts Associates; concept and project developer, BLOC; the sustainable home provider jointly owned by Skanska and IKEA, BoKlok; Buro Happold; international sustainable construction collective, CREE Buildings; timber engineers, Ergodomus Timber Engineering; global risk management and insurance broker, Gallagher; an architectural firm operating at the intersection of nature and urbanity, Guallart Architects; innovators of low-carbon building systems, materials and products, and the creators of Passivhaus-certified homes, Kiss House; globally integrated real estate and investment group, Lendlease; real estate professionals and creative entrepreneurs, Lingotto; consulting engineering group, Ramboll; European real estate investment management company, Redevco; financial services organisation bridging the gap between investors and the timber industry, Timber Finance Initiative; Finland’s sfää­ri; leaders in low carbon architecture and pioneers of engineered timber, Waugh Thistleton Architects; and new-generation construction company, 011h.

Built by Nature’s Accelerator Fund has also launched, to fund teams and solutions that scale up timber building and raise the bar on the positive climate impact of building with timber from sustainably sourced forests. It offers grants of between €50,000-€250,000 to consortia of pioneering expert organisations for projects addressing the barriers to building with timber. Funded projects could include designing new business models and collecting business case data; innovations and frameworks to increase the climate impact of timber buildings; regulatory innovations; or feasibility tests for large city-scale projects that start to shift the norm for the sector.

At launch, the fund announced its first three projects: leading work by Holland Houtland, which aims to scale biobased building through a new blended finance and valuation model; a ‘New Model Building’ from the UK, setting out design principles that showcase an exemplar methodology for building residential developments using engineered timber, by Waugh Thistleton Architects in collaboration with expert fire engineers at University College London; and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalunya’s Valldaura Labs (IAAC), which is convening frontrunners and an exhibition of state-of-the-art solutions ahead of Barcelona hosting major events such as ‘European Forest City’ in 2022.

Alongside the fund, the Built by Nature network connects key actors across the built environment and forest communities through national and city networks and events, enables the research, innovation and regulatory work needed to go beyond pilots to spark city-scale projects, and amplifies stories of groundbreaking timber projects and solutions to change perceptions around timber construction. In close collaboration with its major partners and frontrunners, it aims to reshape the built environment system.

Built by Nature is supported by founding partner Laudes Foundation, which launched in 2020 and is part of the Brenninkmeijer family enterprise. Laudes Foundation supports initiatives that inspire and challenge industry to harness its power for good, at a time when philanthropic capital is increasingly recognised as a catalyst for change, and an essential part of crowding in private finance.

Through Built by Nature and to pilot its Accelerator Fund, the foundation has already made a significant investment in grants to partner organisations who are playing a leading role in the timber building transformation, including BLOC’s ZeroCarbonFund and the Association for Sustainable Building Products’ Timber Accelerator Hub.

Built by Nature is calling for the built environment’s climate leaders and innovators across European markets to join its network. Part of its strategy is to embrace hybrid solutions, and it will look to proactively work with similar initiatives on low-carbon steel and cement, to create the needed change in the sector.

Donald Brenninkmeijer, Chair, Built by Nature, says: “With building space expected to double globally before 2050, we must reimagine the way we build, from a carbon-intensive industry to one that helps remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it adds. Accelerating the timber building transformation, in a way that works in unison with nature, is critical to address the built environment’s carbon footprint.  

“Built By Nature supports those leaders working at the forefront of this challenge. We connect industry and city frontrunners, enabling them to research, demonstrate and scale their innovations, and remove political and legislative barriers. We also amplify new narratives to change mindsets about timber construction – first in Europe, and then throughout the rest of the world.”

Leslie Johnston, CEO, Laudes Foundation, says: “Built by Nature is the foundation’s newest industry transformation initiative that will convene funders, alliances, and coalitions of industry leaders together to accelerate the use of timber in the built environment, while, critically, safeguarding our natural capital. We know that implementing systems change requires strong collaboration across the value chain, and brave thinking from leaders in all sectors, and we are proud that Laudes Foundation is playing an important role in recognising and catalysing innovation and impact through its philanthropic giving. The Accelerator Fund propels an ecosystem of innovative solutions and leaders, acting as a vehicle to pool donor funds into this exciting climate solution.”

James Drinkwater, Head of Built Environment, Laudes Foundation, says: “Just days away from COP26, and in a decade of delivery for climate action, Built by Nature believes in a solution for decarbonisation that harnesses the power of nature, and is one of humanity’s oldest answers: timber construction.

“The timber building transformation is already happening, but too slowly if we are going to stay within our carbon budget. Of all the natural climate solutions already available, forests have the greatest potential. It’s time that the sector wakes up to the need to work in unison with nature to enable carbon removal and storage, alongside – not in place of – deep emissions reduction.”

Andrew Waugh, Founder and Director, Waugh Thistleton Architects, says: “Construction needs radical change. The way we build now is directly responsible for millions of tons of carbon emissions; we need to re-focus our efforts onto using bio-based building materials – ones that we don’t scrape from the surface of our planet. This is going to take mass collaboration from the built environment industry – the sharing of innovation and experience.

“The New Model Building is a pre-warrantied system for a multi-storey residential building in engineered timber – and it will be open-source and adaptable. The time for change in the UK housing industry must be now; the industry urgently needs support, funding and legislation to kickstart that change. The funding we have received for this project will kick start the transformation that is desperately needed in UK house building.”

Neil Martin, CEO Lendlease Europe, says: “To achieve our target of Absolute Zero Carbon by 2040 we need to radically reduce the embodied carbon in the materials that go into our buildings. Accelerating the use of sustainably sourced timber will play a critical role in achieving that goal.”  


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