Irish forests will grow enough timber to build 1.4 million homes by 2040, new figures show.
Wood production in the Republic will hit 120 million cubic metres over the next 17 years, according to the latest National Forest Inventory.
This will convert to 60 million cubic metres of processed timber, including enough construction grade material to build 1.4 million new homes, says the Department of Agriculture report.
The timber produced by Irish forests will be worth more than €15 billion over that time, the document estimates.
Irish forests soak up 323.5 million tonnes of carbon a year, aiding the State’s efforts to contribute to global efforts to halt climate change.
[ Half of Ireland’s forests in private ownership, figures show ]
Mark McAuley, director of lobby group Forest Industries Ireland, argued that the Republic could cut carbon emissions further by building timber-frame houses.
He said the Government’s Housing for All programme sets a construction target of 33,000 new homes a year over the next decade.
“Ten years of building those as timber frame would save millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to masonry construction,” he said.
“We need to update the building regulations and build more apartments as well as houses from timber frame.”
His organisation regularly calls for legal changes to allow for taller timber-frame buildings, which would enable apartments to be built in this way.
Mr McAuley also repeated demands for an efficient licensing process to ensure the industry meets log supply forecasts.
[ Mark McAuley: Ireland must embrace low carbon timber building systems to reduce emissions from construction ]
Forest covers 808,848 hectares in the Republic, more than 11 per cent of the State’s total land area.
The department’s first inventory, completed in 2006, calculated the total at 697,842 hectares. Native broadleaf species, such as sycamore, oak and hazel, account for a third of the new forest planted since then.
Overall, broadleaf trees cover 30.6 per cent of Irish forest, with conifers, grown mostly for commercial purposes, accounting for the rest.
Private individuals and organisations own 411,484 hectares, the first time that this group has controlled more than half the State’s forests.
The State’s biggest county, Cork, has the largest forest area with 92,471 hectares, while Leitrim has the highest forest cover at 20.1 per cent.