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Making better use of the potential of bio-based building materials and systems

The market for bio-based building is changing rapidly, with bio-based building materials increasingly being used instead of the traditional options of steel or concrete. The first pioneers are delivering wooden buildings, but at the same time there is a lot of uncertainty among parties in the market and investments are lagging behind. TNO focuses on knowledge development and innovation, and is committed to exploiting the full potential of biobased building. 

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If you want to find out more about what we do in the field of biobased building or if your company is interested in cooperating with us in one of the innovation projects

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biobased building materials

To achieve the climate targets for a sustainable built environment is a major challenge. The use of bio-based building materials and systems is one of the solutions that can enable this. And various initiatives show that the building economy is already in full swing. 

With the arrival of load-bearing elements made of bio-based materials such as CLT (cross laminated timber), bio-based materials are increasingly being used in places where steel or concrete would normally be used. This is an important development in a market that traditionally focuses on timber frame construction, window frames, doors and roofs. In the meantime, the first pioneers have delivered their wooden buildings in the Netherlands.  


Circular wood - raw materials from waste wood

remove uncertainties 

Despite the potential, there is still a lot of uncertainty among parties in the market and investments are therefore lagging behind. That is why TNO, together with several partners, is researching the optimisation of building elements for buildings that are partially or fully realised in wood. 

Further knowledge development and innovation are necessary to reduce the cost price of bio-based building materials and to further strengthen the circularity potential. This will also remove uncertainties, so that scaling up can be achieved and bio-based building can be put to optimal use.  

biobased building - building accelerator 

Within the innovation programme 'Biobased Building Accelerator', TNO works together with market parties on a wide range of research projects on wood and other biobased building materials. We focus on the following three components: 

  • Building innovations (building materials, building systems and cost price);
  • Improving calculation methods related to sustainability;
  • Industrialisation and prefabrication for upscaling.

The programme thus contributes to the underlying objectives of the Building Innovation cluster: Improving, accelerating and making more sustainable the building and construction sector in the Netherlands. 

building innovations

In the field of building innovations, we work side by side with contractors, suppliers, architects and engineers in various projects on three topics: 

  • Optimisation of CLT-like products through material research (e.g. use of softer woods and waste wood in CLT), adhesive bonding and element geometry; 
  • Development of wooden and hybrid building elements (floors, walls and joints) that are optimised with regard to acoustics, fire, moisture, vibration, load-bearing capacity, compressive strength, durability and price requirements; 
  • Circular design

We work on these topics in TNO's state-of-the-art Building Lab in Delft, which is fully equipped to support the abovementioned projects. In addition, tests and trials are conducted in field labs (such as the Green Village) and in construction projects. 

optimising calculation methods for biobased building materials 

Wood has the great advantage of coming from a renewable source. Forests - if managed responsibly - are an inexhaustible source. However, this advantage over other materials is still insufficiently appreciated in current sustainability systems, as is its capacity to temporarily store CO2. 

But also the disadvantages of wood, such as land use, are not included in the calculations. Impartiality is often lacking in the social debate. TNO, together with other research institutions, is trying to break through this and ensure that bio-based materials and other materials can be compared in a fairer, scientifically substantiated way. 

To achieve this, we are conducting research into improved calculation methods in which bio-based materials are included in a fairer way in environmental performance calculations, such as the Environmental Performance Calculation for Buildings (MPG). 

industrialisation, prefabrication & upscaling 

Because bio-based materials are light and easy to work with, they lend themselves well to prefabrication. Elements can be made in the factory and assembled at the building site. TNO supports companies in industrialising their business processes through platform technology, but also in optimising building systems and machining processes. 

Extensive industrialisation of the building industry is an important condition for meeting the large demand for building in the Netherlands, and bio-based materials can play an important role in this. 

If you would like to know more about what we do in the field of biobased building or if your company interested in working with us on one of the innovation projects, please get in touch with us.  


The wooden window frame of the future

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