How Henkel Adhesives Contribute to Green Construction
What part does construction play in preserving the climate?
Christian Fild, Henkel’s Head of Global Engineered Wood in the Adhesive Technologies business segment, calls it “a huge one”: “Around the world, buildings are responsible for about 40% of CO2 emissions. Eleven percent are caused by building activity, while the remaining portion is a result of building usage.” Due to the necessity of producing cement, concrete has the largest carbon footprint of all the building materials. In addition, raw materials like gravel and sand, which are additional crucial components of concrete, are already in low supply. As a result, the business is searching for more environmentally friendly options, like wood. Christian Fild discusses why wood will (again) play a significant part in this interview.
Why did wood last so long before being supplanted by other building materials?
Christian Fild: Wood was the first substance used for construction. Think a few thousand years in the past. Most homes were constructed out of clay or wood. Concrete and steel were developed around 150 years ago. Both are excellent building materials, concrete in particular because of its resilience to moisture. Today, concrete is used for building foundations, and steel is unquestionably the best material for high-rise structures since it provides excellent stability and high rigidity. Every component of a building has a purpose. But for a long time, using steel and concrete was simple, affordable, and commonplace. No one was particularly concerned about CO2 emissions until around 15 or 20 years ago.
For instance, what kind of developments are those?
Christian Fild: If you look at old half-timbered houses, you can see that the structures persist for a very long time, but after a while they start to get a little wonky and deformed because the wood is always changing. Cross-laminated lumber was “invented” about 20 years ago. The multilayer solid wood panels offer extremely high stability and load-bearing capacity. Even more intriguing is the fact that wood works better for producing prefabricated structures than steel or concrete. When using wood, the components can be prefabricated in factories and then easily put together on the job site. Fewer mistakes are made because factories allow for far more exact manufacturing than is possible on-site.
Do we have enough resources to eventually replace concrete and steel with wood?
Yes, Christian Fild, because the resources replenish themselves. That is the primary distinction between wood and steel or concrete. There is enough forestland to provide timber for building. Of course, sustainable management is crucial, and clear-cutting forests is unacceptable. However, I want to underline that steel and concrete are also important in the construction process. The one is not better than the other. The materials should be applied where it makes the most sense to do so. Today, there are also a lot of hybrid timber structures where the advantages of all building materials are crucial.
Henkel Adhesives has therefore created product lines exclusively for timber building materials. What makes this glue technology unique?
Christian Fild: The first formaldehyde-free polyurethane adhesives to pass the strict requirements for load-bearing wood construction were ours. Formaldehyde-based adhesives are extremely effective but are also hazardous, which is why they are being used less and less. By enabling formaldehyde-free bonding in timber construction, Henkel has made a really significant contribution. Henkel’s adhesives also have the unique ability to be manufactured rapidly, accurately, and neatly, making them excellent for prefabricated structure construction.
Polyurethane adhesives are a crucial part of modern, environmentally friendly construction. What part will Henkel Adhesives play in this sector going forward?
Christoper Fild Our aim is straightforward: We believe that timber building offers tremendous potential for sustainability. The climate targets cannot be accomplished without wooden building, to put it another way. Henkel wants to do its part in this endeavour. As is frequently the case, we can only make a very little contribution to the adhesives industry, but technology enables the greater picture.