Baufritz and the use of Timber as the primary building material for a carbon positive house

Baufritz has been researching the development of healthy and ecological homes since the 1970s. Throughout the manufacturing process Baufritz minimises their carbon emissions. As a result, the eco home pioneer has been building carbon positive homes for over 15 years. In 1996 Baufritz was the first German construction company to ratify the independent EMAS (Eco-Management & Audit Scheme) ‘EU Eco Audit’. However reducing carbon emissions is only part of the story.

The materials used to build ecological homes must be a consideration. Baufritz strongly believes that eco homes should create a healthy living environment for the occupants. Timber is one of our most traditional construction materials and has a key role to play when it comes to building ecological pre-fabricated homes. Timber buildings are less carbon intensive to manufacture, transport and erect than traditional construction materials. Therefore, increasing the use of timber construction in their buildings reduces the carbon impact.

Baufritz homes have a carbon positive rating, because they lock away more CO2 than is emitted during their manufacture, transportation and construction. They are able to achieve this because timber is their primary building material. Timber is able to store vast amounts of CO2, which is absorbed from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. The CO2 is then locked into the fabric of the building. The C02 would normally be released into the atmosphere when the tree naturally decomposes. Baufritz houses are a great carbon capture system. By manufacturing the houses off-site in a modern factory, they ensure the production methods are highly CO2 efficient and that natural building components where possible are used.

The carbon balance in an average Baufritz house is approximately 50 tonnes positive. This means that if the house is run efficiently using, for example, a combination of gas and solar power, the house will take around 75 years to consume the locked in CO2 and become carbon neutral.

But how does a Baufritz carbon positive house compare to a net zero carbon house as set out by the new Code for Sustainable Homes? The definition of net zero carbon in this instance focuses largely on the running costs of the house once built and places minimal emphasis on the amount of embodied energy already in the building (which has the most significant impact on the environment). Baufritz´s carbon positive homes take into account the additional carbon emissions generated during manufacture, construction and transport – a more realistic measure. Equally a carbon positive house is not necessarily a carbon zero house unless the customer invests in the necessary electrical and heating systems.

To achieve zero net carbon status, there is a need to rely on emerging technology such as photovoltaic power, wind power and microgeneration. Not only will the cost of these technologies push up the price for the consumer, but as yet their efficiency and durability in the long term has not been adequately tested. This over reliance on technology means that should a failure occur in a net carbon zero compliant building it would immediately become carbon negative, hence the need to create a positive carbon balance in the first place to allow for the inevitable breakdowns. This makes it all the more important to focus on the CO2 performance of the building envelope (walls and roof), rather than solely focusing on add-on technology.

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