The construction sector is among the most dynamic ones in the national economy of Latvia. Over the past five years it has grown on the average by 9.4% per year. In 2004, the volume of construction work, compared to the previous year, increased by 12.3%. In the total volume of work the proportion of housing starts has increased steadily, especially of dwelling houses.
The sector of building family homes is burgeoning; the homes built have a higher level of amenities and the total floor area. At the same time the number of construction projects for summer cottages and garden houses is going down.
In the recent years, the construction of family homes has increased considerably. It is explained by easier terms of getting credits. The commercial banks have reduced the interest rates for credits, offering a variety of housing schemes, soft credits for house building and overhauling, including a programme for purchasing
one’s first home.
The diversity of building materials and components used in construction is of essential importance. Unfortunately, the situation with the use of wood and timber in construction leaves much to be desired: the wood is predominantly used as an ancillary material and in separate parts of the building, for example, for roofing, doors, windows, stairs, and as finishing material in the exterior and interior applications. However, the consumption of sawnwood is gradually increasing as seen from higher volumes of sales on the domestic market.
Until recently, the secondary level regulatory acts (standards, construction codes, etc.), which were largely based on the construction norms for the Soviet period, were an essential obstacle for a wider use of wood in construction. At present the work is under way for approximating the national construction regulations with the EU demands.
The Latvian Forest Industry Federation, jointly with the forest owners, architects, builders, and dealers in building materials, are planning to launch in 2005 a campaign, partly supported by the government, for promoting the use of wood in construction. The objective is to achieve that the use of wood in modern construction technologies is increasingly recognized as an efficient, economically feasible, and environmentfriendly method in construction.