There needs to be more timber-constructed houses in order for Ireland to meet its forestry targets and reduce carbon emissions, structural engineer and lecturer in civil engineering at University of Galway Patrick McGetrick told a forestry conference in the RDS on Thursday 2 May.

The target set by the Irish Government is to increase the forest cover to 17% of the land area of the country by the year 2030.

However, Ireland is currently falling well short of meeting this target.

Presenting a paper on 'Timber for Sustainable Construction', McGetrick said that certain volumes of concrete and steel need to be replaced with materials such as timber or Ireland will not meet those targets.

The growing demand for houses poses an opportunity for more timber-framed houses, he argued.

Huge opportunity

"If we are going to build 50,000 houses every year, we won't meet that target if we stay with traditional materials. We have huge opportunity in Ireland because of the amount of timber that will be available over the next number of years," he maintained.

Ireland, he added, has the lowest number of people living in apartments compared with the European average. Across Europe, on average, 48% of people live in apartments compared with just 8% who live in apartments in Ireland.

A shift to this type of housing would increase the construction of homes.

"There are a lot of benefits to timber - it's a local homegrown resource, it's a renewable natural resource and it can be reused," he said.

Timber, he said, particularly from sitka spruce, is easily cut, easily milled and reduced into products that can be used in buildings and homes, he added.