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Why do we not build wooden houses?  

logo russianconstruction.com
Why do we not build wooden houses?  

Why is Russia dramatically falling behind Western countries and the USA in wooden housing construction?

Muddling and corruption are the main reasons for the weak development of domestic wooden housing construction. This verdict was voiced at the consultation on housing construction in the countryside that took place at the Federation Council.

 

Peasants are still dreaming of the comforts of home

The conference was dedicated to the implementation of the Federal Target Program, “Sustainable development of rural areas in 2014 – 2017 and for the period until 2020”. Wooden housing construction, the share of which as part of the total volume of housing construction is only 10.5%, was the focus.  

Albert Semin, Doctor of Agriculture, wrote in his article, published in one of the central papers on the day of the forum’s opening:

“The financial situation for commodity producers in the country is now at its toughest for some years”, the scientist remarks. “Import replacement demands additional financing, which is lacking, and unemployment is 2-3 times as much as it is in the city. Social problems in rural areas have never been treated so clumsily as they have been during the last quarter of a century. And in these conditions, the peasantry as a class will begin to die off”. Many will agree with him, I think.

The situation in rural areas is critical. The thing is that from 2003 to 2013 the FTP “Social development of rural areas” was being implemented. The results have been very poor, and nothing to boast about.  

Rural areas are still on the brink of disaster. Housing is decaying disastrously – 2.5m of our countrymen live in rundown houses. About half a million country families are in the queue for housing improvement. Their small salaries do not allow them to deal with this problem themselves.

Regarding basic amenities and comforts of home, many villagers still have outside “conveniences”. (see table)

 

Amenities provision levels in town and in the country (in 2015)

 Amenities

 In town (%)  In rural areas (%)

Central heating

92,1

63,6

Hot water supply

80,5

27,9

Water supply

89,8

52

Sewerage  

87,6

41,1

Bathroom (shower)

81,6

30,7

Gas supply

73,3

65,4

 

Source: Federation Council of the RF

 

So we have to face this problem once more.

The burning issue in rural areas is the lack of staff.

“The head of an agricultural enterprise cannot solve the problem of his specialists’ housing provision. He really has no chance”, Tatiana Gigel, a member of the RF FC Committee on agricultural policy and nature management, remarked.  According to her, this problem should be solved by regional and municipal administrations. It is they who should shoulder the financial load.



Why is everything in Russia a bit groggy?

All hope rests on the new program established by the RF Government Resolution №598, dated July 15th, 2013. Its principal goal is the creation of favourable conditions for rural inhabitants.  According to the new program, 3,676,100 m2 are planned to be put in operation for people living in rural areas, including 2,457,700 m2 for young families and specialists.

And yet, how should villagers be provided with comfortable housing? One of the measures is to develop wooden housing construction, and the extensive use of wooden items and structures in construction.

Russia is a highly forested country - 70% of it is covered with woods. And so using wood for construction seems logical, but it is not!  

And so many articles have been written on the issue, tons of paper (and tons of wood) have been used in the printing of same! And to no end… Why is it so? Why is wood not used in the countryside in spite of all orders, resolutions and programs? Why do they do it in the West and why can we not?  I am almost tempted to say to the officials responsible for the use of wood: “Go to… the wood, guys!”

European countries have long-established programs on the extensive use of wood in construction, and they are far ahead in wood consumption volumes.

Thus, according to the “Wooden Europe” program, wooden housing construction in the EU is planned to be 80% of the total volume of low-rise housing put in operation. Finland, according to its national program, has increased the share of wooden housing construction from 30% to 70% of its total new housing supply. In the USA and Canada more than 80% of individual houses and townhouses are made of wood. In Japan the share of wooden houses is more than 43%. They use plant-manufactured blocks, assembling them at construction sites. Besides this, 8-9 storey houses are actively being built in some countries. Their construction is mainly based on the use of cross laminated timber (CLT).  

Experts think the obsolete regulation base, the absence of special standards for wooden housing construction elements, the lack of SNiPs for wooden housing construction, and technical specifications for the production and erection of wooden houses are the main obstacles in the way of innovations in the sphere of wooden housing construction and wood processing.  

Restrictions regarding fire safety are also a barrier.

However, it is very profitable to build with wood. According to expert assessments, wooden construction development allows for a decrease in the primary cost of 1m2 by 40%, and for a 1.5-fold decrease in the terms of construction.  Production of wooden construction materials is 15% - 20% less power-consuming than the production of cement, concrete or reinforced concrete structures.

Speaking on the problems of wooden housing construction, Oleg Numerov, Director General of the Furniture and Wood Processing Enterprises Association, said: 

“Russia is very much a forest-covered country, but brick, concrete, and silicate blocks are mainly used in the construction of houses. 1m2 of wooden construction is 2- or 2.5-fold cheaper as compared with houses made of traditional materials, and the term of construction is only 3-4 weeks.   

According to him, corruption has its part to play.

“Wooden construction is cheap, so there is no interest!” Numerov remarked.

The Deputy Governor of the Kostroma region, Alexei Smirnov, agrees with him.

“It is not right to construct nursery schools from brick. We should build them out of wood!” he asserted.

According to him, both housing and social, cultural and educational objects can be constructed from wood. Smirnov suggested designing a technical regulation for the construction of social objects made of wood in rural areas.

The Deputy Governor and the heads of Kostroma regional enterprises have shared their experience in wooden construction, but even in their richly forested region the share of wooden houses as part of the total volume of new housing is only 16%... To say nothing of the other regions.

 

7% — and no more!

It was stressed at the conference that the volumes of wooden construction may easily be increased. The cost of the equipment for manufacturing prefabricated wooden houses with a size of up to 55,000 m2 is about €2m.

And how can housing construction in rural areas become cheaper? First of all, by reducing costs and expenditures while registering land lots, by the use of local construction materials, and by the use of energy efficient technology. There are positive examples of this in Russia, in the Rostov and Tumen regions.

It has been suggested that one could actively promote wooden housing construction, establish quotas for the use of wood within state construction programs and update norms and regulations.

It was also proposed that a 7% mortgage loan rate for Sberbank and Rosselkhozbank could be established to finance commercial housing construction in rural areas and small towns. 

Besides this, a number of state support measures are necessary for the development of industrial wooden housing construction, otherwise the program will fail, as happened with the previous document.

 

 

Gennady LULKIN

Photos by the author

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