Berlin has officially joined the Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) and now plans to work with the organisation to drive procurement and use of sustainable timber in the city.
The STTC sees the development as further evidence of rising interest in its aims and activities among European urban authorities. Earlier this year the City of Rotterdam joined, following others including Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona and Leeuwarden. ICLEI, the international organisation for promoting sustainability in local government, notably urban authorities, has also recommended its members to back the Coalition.
It was already Berlin Senate policy to procure only timber from sustainably managed forestry, certified under FSC or PEFC schemes, or backed by alternative verified evidence of sustainability. Recently certified bangkirai was used in the construction of a public footbridge.
As an STTC member, the city will also now actively promote sustainable procurement.
“With the STTC we hope to create real stimuli, such as use of certified timber in the construction of public buildings,” said Thomas Schwilling of Berlin’s city development and environment administration. “Where we see a potential application for certified sustainable tropical timber we will advocate its use. In fact, we aim to increase the use of timber overall in construction, as it is such a sustainable raw material.”
Another incentive for Berlin to back the use of tropical timber under its Nachhaltiges Bauen, or Sustainable Building criteria for public projects, is its increasingly widely recognised Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) performance – with the STTC itself increasingly focusing on this area and backing LCA evaluation of tropical species.
“In the context of our Nachhaltiges Bauen evaluation system, the ecological balance and impacts of construction materials, including timber, are taken into account,” said Mr Schwilling. “These studies show timber is climate neutral, in contrast to other materials.”
Berlin is also in tune with STTC’s work to increase the use of lesser-known sustainable tropical timber species to take the supply stress off more widely used varieties, and maximise yield of sustainably managed forest areas.
“It’s important planners and architects procure the types of timber from sustainably managed forests that are available and know which [new types] can be introduced,” said Mr Schwilling. “In fact we are now discussing this with the timber trade around Berlin.”
Whether other German towns and cities will follow Berlin’s example and sign up to join the STTC remains to be seen. But alongside other city authority members, it will provide a prime model in urban sustainable tropical timber procurement and application which the Coalition believes can be built on.