March 8, 2023
3 Min. Read

Timber is the Solution to the Urbanization Challenge 

Timber is the solution to the huge challenge of rapid urbanization and carbon emissions facing the world today.    

 “Timber can turn this challenge into a massive opportunity for all. We estimate that the value chain from timber housing has the potential to become an 8-billion-dollar industry. Therefore timber can turn the challenge we have with urbanization into a fantastic opportunity for all of us. We want to do large-scale developments in Tanzania, and we want to do it with timber,” Sebastian Dietzold – Chief Executive Officer for CPS, said at the Wood Conference held in South Africa recently.     

Presenting on the topic- “The rise of a new circular economy from the tree to the house,”  Sebastian noted that urbanization is occurring today in Africa faster than at any other time in human history, thus creating an affordable housing challenge. “If we don’t change the way we build - the technology and materials we use in construction, this massive challenge from urbanization will roll over us. So we need scalability, affordability and at the same time quality,” he explained.                  

Today most of the biggest cities in the world are in Asia, but by the year 2100, that picture will change. Soon most of the biggest cities will be here in Africa, where cities like Lagos - Nigeria, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Kinshasa will have more than 60 million people. Already Africa has a backlog of over 50 million residential units, and this urban housing challenge must be turned into an opportunity to provide sustainable housing for all these people.

To conquer this massive growth of urbanization, CPS is currently producing 300 to 400 housing units in Zanzibar. “We need 6,000, and in Dar es Salaam over 70,000 houses people can afford. These affordable houses don’t have to look like refugee camps, they can be beautiful houses made from sustainable materials, and that’s what we are doing,” the developer of Tanzania’s fastest-selling real estate project, CPS Fumba Town, said. 

Moreover, 38% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from construction and construction-related industries, which calls for action. “We need to change how we build. If we continue building the same way we are today, our planet will die. That’s the simple message. With rapid urbanization, global warming and climate change, more sustainable ways of construction are required. He argued that we need to grow, harvest and regrow trees to solve the carbon emissions challenge,” he argued.    

Already there is massive potential for timber in Africa. Tanzania, for example, has about 260,000 hectares of sustainably managed forest and about 52% forest cover and is producing about 1.58 million cubits of sawn timber per year. If 10% of the woods were allocated to sustainable forestry, we could produce 42 million cubic meters of sawn timber per year, enough to feed the world with timber.   

“We could motivate communities to grow more timber as an income generation activity. We want to tell people a story. We are building the tallest hybrid timber tower in the world, the Burj Zanzibar, to change perception and show people that this technology is modern, beautiful, durable, sustainable and a global landmark,” he elaborated.   

Wolfgang Hebenstreit, the Projects Technical Director from Binderholz in Austria, the global leader in Mass Timber production, explained that there are two types of timber construction - one made on-site, and another made 100% in the factory. He said that building with timber greatly reduces construction time and costs and results in world-class finishes.        

In 2021, Tanzania published the National Energy Wood Sector Development Framework, which lays out policies for developing the wood sector. CPS is engaging the government to build 10,000 homes per year in Tanzania. Soon CPS is launching a 5,000 units project in Dar es Salaam and wants to do it with timber.  

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