Real estate
30. April 2024 – News

Incentives and barriers for building with wood: study for the city of Zurich provides information

[English] Holzbau - Future Tree Esslingen

Wood is gaining in importance as a building material. The building material grows back and binds carbon as a CO2 sink for decades. With the "Wood for net zero" project, the city of Zurich is currently exploring how it can use wood as a building material in the most climate-effective and resource-saving way possible. Basler & Hofmann conducted a study for this purpose. What favors building with wood and what are the current obstacles? The initial results of the study provide valuable insights.

With this study, the city, as a building owner, energy producer and forest owner, is investigating how it can best use wood as a building material to achieve its climate protection goals. Civil engineers and forest experts from Basler & Hofmann interviewed 25 experts from the entire value chain, from architecture and wood processing to building owners, about incentives and barriers to building with wood and identified various wood procurement models based on current timber construction projects in the greater Zurich area.

9 Starting points for promoting wood as a building material

The following ten points provide an initial insight into the incentives and barriers to building with wood that were identified by the study. The list is not exhaustive.

  • Advances in fire engineering and life cycle assessmentstandards favor building with wood.
  • A high degree of prefabrication gives timber construction several advantages over solid construction: weather-independent production, fewer emissions and less noise on the construction site and a shorter construction time.
  • Wood also scores highly in terms of energy efficiency : The material has low thermal conductivity and therefore good insulating properties for the winter months.
  • The circular economy is becoming increasingly important in the construction industry. Wood can distinguish itself through its high level of re-use compatibility.
  • Wood demonstrably improves the indoor climate . Residential and commercial spaces with visible wooden surfaces can be rented out at higher prices.
  • The current construction industry is geared towards cost-efficient building . Only a fair life cycle assessment can legitimize the ecological added value and thus the additional costs of timber buildings compared to solid construction.
  • Too narrow a requirement for the regional origin of the timber used can weaken the competitiveness of timber construction.
  • Current design practice is based on the solid construction of recent decades. Ideally, however, the decision to build with timber is already made during the selection process.
  • The low mass of timber buildings leads to disadvantages in terms of summer heat insulation and noise protection. There are technical compensation options for this, but these are often costly.


In two workshops, the City of Zurich is now discussing the results of the study with experts from the entire timber value chain and working with these experts to identify specific measures for the promotion of timber as a building material and possible models for the timber supply chain for the City of Zurich. The overall study with the results from the workshops will be presented in June 2024.

Client of the study:
City of Zurich, Environmental Engineering and Health Protection
Gabriella Ries Hafner, Senior Project Manager

Study managers from Basler & Hofmann:
Dr. René Zemp, Head of Structural Engineering
Dr. Miriam Kleinhenz, Project Engineer Structural Engineering
Konrad Nötzli, Forest project management

Moderation of workshops:
EBP Schweiz AG

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