JOSE IGNACIO, Uruguay – A builder in Uruguay is turning to wood, long used as an essential construction material in northern Europe, in an effort to boost the domestic forestry industry and promote sustainability.
Matias Abergo, CEO of construction company Enkel Group, said in an interview with EFE in Jose Ignacio, an upscale coastal resort town located 140 kilometers (about 87 miles) from Montevideo and 30 kilometers (some 19 miles) from Punta del Este, that his company was using wood as the primary material for a new hotel.
The construction company is putting up a three-story wooden hotel in Jose Ignacio, the first building of its kind in South America.
Enkel Group is using cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glued laminated timber, or glulam, to construct the Posada Jose Ignacio, Abergo said, adding that the idea was to use a building system that would “resolve a series of issues: speed of construction, cost and environmental impact.”
Abergo said using wood as the primary building material had a positive impact on the environment.
“This building, in particular, has 500 cubic meters of wood and captured 540 tons of CO2. What does this mean? That we removed (the equivalent of) 122 vehicles being driven for a year from traffic,” Abergo said.
The new building is part of a complex of wood structures, including an inn and bungalows, at the Posada Jose Ignacio.
“It’s a development that has worked hand-in-hand (to address) the environmental impact problems we have today because wood is a sustainable product, a product that uses renewable energy to grow,” Abergo said.
The Enkel Group CEO is scheduled to deliver an address, titled “La industrializacion de la madera en Uruguay y sus oportunidades” (The Industrialization of Wood in Uruguay and Its Opportunities), at the 2nd European Investment Forum in Uruguay, an event that will take place Oct. 10-11.
One opportunity, according to Abergo, is that using a sustainable product created with renewable energy ensures more CO2 capture.
The Enkel Group chief said the construction industry accounts for 47 percent of CO2 emissions.
“So, if we really use these types of construction systems, it will allow us to really, seriously have an impact on taking care of the environment,” Abergo said.
Enkel Group used special wood panels manufactured in Italy and Brazil to build the 2,000 sq. meter (about 21,500 sq. foot) structure over a period of six months.
“We had to put up the structure in a very short period of time and with a very good finish and, of course, at a competitive price,” Abergo said.
Enkel Group constructed three, three-story hotel buildings for hospitality company VIK, as well as two, two-story inns and the one-story bungalows at a “savings of between 20 (percent) and 30 percent below conventional construction,” Abergo said.
Uruguay currently has two companies operating in the cellulose industry, but Abergo said that “regrettably, the development in South America of laminated wood has been a slower process than in Europe and the United States.”
The Enkel Group CEO, however, said that the outlook for this type of building material was “very good,” with growth estimated at 7 percent annually in the past decade.
Wood is a “very competitive” product, compared to conventional building materials, Abergo said.
“We believe that in the short-term, they will have to start producing CLT panels here, all the conditions are in place. We have lots of wood to make it with and, regrettably, that wood sometimes leaves the country without any value added,” the Enkel Group CEO said.
Enkel Group plans to start construction in about 45 days on a casino in Piriapolis, a city about 40 kilometers (some 25 miles) from Punta del Este.
The casino will be the first gaming establishment in Latin America constructed with laminated wood, Abergo said.
The 2nd European Investment Forum will examine the potential for timber harvested in Uruguay, focusing on geographic and other benefits for investors.
The event, organized by investment, export and country brand promotion agency Uruguay XXI and the European Union’s office in this South American country, is expected to draw diplomats from the Mercosur trade bloc and EU, as well as representatives of state- and privately owned forestry companies.