A vegetal economy


Graphic synthesis of a circular vegetal economy. The following scheme intends to synthesize the interrelation between various groups, agents, institutes, associations and public bureaus that participate in a forestry productive circuit serving the construction of buildings and the production of wooden objects. This conceptualization could serve as the basis for setting up transverse organizations for the promotion of wood.

How to read this scheme:

– Color wheel indicates the physical state of the wood in each of its phases.

– The gray central circle, lists the areas of society that work to rotate the wheel with high quality.

– The perimetral bars are the companies and organizations that are related to each sector of the wheel.

Antecedents. In recent years there has been a phenomenon on architecture and construction fields. With an exponential increase, buildings with a wooden structure of various structural and constructive types have begun to be built. This reality has been accompanied by new design, construction and industry needs that have led to rapid adaptations in the everyday tasks of the agents involved.

Environmental challenges. Today we are in a moment of history that seems to be a transition to new models of organization as a society. The overexploitation of the planet’s natural resources and the abuse of an open cycle of energy production and consumption has led to the alteration of the Earth’s balance. The best known evidence about this disorder is global warming.

Wood as a solution. Even if we take over the irreversible effects of climate change, it is essential to reduce CO2 emissions and try to sequester from the atmosphere part of what has already been emitted since the Industrial Revolution. Energetically efficient artificial processes have not yet been invented to do so. Fortunately, the photosynthesis of the plants accomplishes this task in a natural manner. Spontaneous fires and rotting of trees is the regular way of carbon to return to the atmosphere. If we manage to incorporate young wood into the human built environment, we will be sequestering carbon and at the same time avoiding the consumption of fossil energy to produce other materials such as steel, cement and ceramics. Any energy and economic analysis of construction must use the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as a key tool.

Constructive cultural migration. Those countries with a mineral constructive tradition like ours will find it more complicate to migrate towards a vegetal construction. In spite of this, the development of the industry of the first transformation during the 90’s in European countries with tradition in wood, offers us extraordinary technological possibilities. While in Canada and the United States they work to build their skyscrapers with wood, in our country we can have a sufficiently massive material to give continuity to the solidity that the collective imagination associates with habitable buildings.

Responsibility of designers. Fulfilling architecture designing tasks must include the solution of multiple factors that are often difficult to fit: functional, economical, aesthetic, regulatory, environmental, administrative and commercial. The irrevocable legal responsibility as natural persons, makes the architects and engineers need a broad reliable prescription service to be able to support them while designing their missions. Without convinced technicians, the wheel of a powerful vegetable economy can hardly be started.

New productive economy. The increase in wood demand and specific knowledge on the subject will bring a new dynamic opportunity for the local production economy. The fact that it is a renewable cycle can turn it into a real paradigm of sustainable economy. The wood construction sector will gain strength if it closes its cycle adding forest management, deconstruction and recycling, the production of energy with biomass and the energy efficiency of the entire process. Incorporating the furniture sector will reinforce the involvement of traditional guilds and is completely consistent with the objective of sequestering CO2. The effects on health caused by wood indoors and the reduction of contamination during the works also adds Public Health interests to the subject.

Present slide of the wood sector. Wood has always been present in the traditional and contemporary construction of our country but its use has been limited to some elements of the envelope (doors and windows), finishing (parquet and sidings) or equipment (furniture in general). It is also true that during the decades of public construction prior to the crisis of 2008, innumerable sport or for the tertiary sector buildings had allowed the development of the glue-lam industry to solve long span roofs, but unfortunately the sudden stop of this type of work left this sector especially damaged. Now, a decade later, the structural wood has conquered room in the housing construction market, largely in the hands of the experience of some European companies that developed their products as an evolution of a local constructive tradition. The result of these historical events has given rise to a very fragmented configuration of the wood sector in our environment. There is a great disconnection between forestry and the needs of industry, between industry and the needs of construction, between architecture and the training of design professionals.

Wood as a link in a sector. One way to redirect the atomized world of wood and transform it into a new cradle-to-cradle economy could be by using the physical transformation “journey” of the noble material in question as the cornerstone of the sector. If instead of working for the promotion of wood from watertight sectors, it is made from transversal structures that never lost sight of the interrelation between apparently very distant specialties, a very powerful discourse could be articulated that quickly gave rise to construction with Wood the transcendence that inexorably will have during the present century. Any initiative that works in this direction will weave the necessary links to allow the transfer of knowledge, experience, technology and capital of all kinds to activate a circular vegetable economy of permanent improvement. Let it not be the tree that does not let us see the forest.

Surroundings of the sector. Two specific action environments could be defined but with very different periods in the world of wood construction: one that groups the thematic areas related to the construction itself and another that has to do with the factors that determine the possibilities Forest exploitation and building regulations.

Main actors in the cycle of wood. Some figures within the circuit of use and exploitation of wood can be considered vertices of interrelations that will eventually define the thematic areas of wood. These actors are: the Administration, forest owners, forest exploiters, wood transformers, specialized builders, promoters, and finally architects as key agents.


Thematic areas of the wood cycle. The relationship between the different actors determines thematic areas that maintain an unstable balance. Modifications that affect each of these areas will affect the rest of the areas. This is the reason why, only through an integrative approach, legislative, commercial or technical decisions must be taken. The success of a wood promotion strategy as a driver of a clean economy and of low environmental impact lies in the coordinated action of the agents that intervene in this area.