Socio-economic challenges, such as rural depopulation and unemployment, are shared throughout the south-western region of Europe. In addition, urban growth, population growth or recurrent natural disasters threaten the conservation and resilience of natural resources. Despite this, accumulated forest biomass increases the risks of natural disasters.
Wood and cork are local natural resources whose technical characteristics make them excellent raw materials for construction. Wood is not simply a light biological material whose processes of industrial transformation and production emit less greenhouse gas emissions than its competitors, but it also stores atmospheric carbon. In south-western Europe there are few wooden buildings in comparison to other European regions. Therefore, it is where the potential climate change mitigation through the substitution of materials is the biggest in comparison to other European regions.
Here we present the Interreg Sudoe IMIP project (Innovative Eco-Construction System Based on Interlocking Modular Insulation Wood & Cork-Based Panels) aimed to support the change towards a low carbon economy using bioproducts (wood and cork) for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth with a special focus on the public construction sector.
An international consortium of 9 partners from Spain, France and Portugal with different legal natures and expertise collaborate to improve the energy efficiency policies in public buildings and homes through the implementation of networks and joint experimentation. The main objective of the IMIP project is to design, validate and implement an ecological construction system based on natural biological materials to improve energy efficiency in public buildings. The panels designed will be tested on certified labs to analyse their technical behaviour. Technical and economic evaluation as well as an environmental assessment will be carried out.
Results and discussion
One of the main expected results is an interconnected modular system of insulating panels made of wood and cork to improve energy efficiency of buildings, including their entire life cycle. This system will be applied in public buildings through four pilot actions: two in Spain, one in France and one in Portugal. Another expected result is a BIM (Building Information Modelling) plug-in to analyse the environmental benefits of bioproducts used in construction (carbon storage and substitute effect).
In addition, some of the most relevant products will be a roadmap towards an increased use of wood and cork in public buildings of South-West Europe, a roadmap for improving energy efficiency in public building through use of local bio-resources, and a technical sheet to be included in official recognized tools for policy implementation. Other products will be training courses, scientific publications, or the methodology description for panel installation.
This project will create several opportunities for the regional challenges. The promotion of smart growth focused on promoting a circular bioeconomy based on knowledge and innovation is an excellent opportunity for Small and Medium Enterprises located in rural areas of the south-western Europe. Cooperation between companies and research organizations to start new high value-added economic activities in rural areas can contribute to the creation of new job opportunities and increase social cohesion.
The high concentration of unused wood and cork resources in the region creates an opportunity to be used as raw material to produce innovative wood and cork-based products. Furthermore, the harvest of this biomass will reduce the risk of forest fires and will contribute to the improvement of sustainable forest management. The construction sector, due to its high impact, is a tractor sector with high potential benefits for the use of local renewable natural resources such as wood or cork.
This added value endowment of forest products in turn represents an opportunity for rural development and employment for local populations that could reverse the serious trend of depopulation suffered by rural communities.