Mass Timber for Mexico?

The reality of regulatory, cultural and economic barriers preventing the use of this new construction commodity

FIG. 1. Conceptual Collage


Wood construction in Mexico, whether with wood light frame or mass timber construction, has been subject to government policies and sociocultural aspects. Despite the advantages of using this material, in Mexico there are several popular myths around the use of wood in construction. One myth is that the country does not have large amounts of forest resources. Another common concern is that illegal logging and public ignorance of procedures and certifications threaten the legal provenance and sustainability of it. Mexico has approximately 64 million hectares of temperate climate forests and jungles that cover 34 percent of the national territory (Fig 2). Forty years ago in Mexico, the construction of community forest management began — a model that has become a world reference when it comes to conserving forests and generating benefits for its inhabitants.

Another important fact to consider is that Mexico imports almost 67 percent of the wood it consumes. Producers who manage their forests sustainably face difficulties staying competitive in a market affected by timber from commercial plantations from countries like Chile and illegal transnational trade. In some community forestry enterprises there are no registry that they are producing Mass Timber. If a quick Google search is made, only a couple of companies in Mexico are producing and selling online Mass Timber products, and even then only Glulam beams.

Also important is the socio-cultural aspect in relation to the use of wood in buildings, whether they are real estate developments or self-construction. There is a belief that wood is a brittle material and susceptible to fire. This is reflected when investing in your home. For a real estate developer the easiest way to build is concrete or steel, and for economy they choose concrete. If we talk about self-construction, people prefer to use cement block and concrete because they feel their construction will have a better chance to last and be inherited by future generations. This essay explores and explains how Mass Timber construction can be a great opportunity for Mexico as a country, by employing its already available natural resources strategically. Trying to reach architects in practice and architecture teachers to set an example for the next generations of architecture students, since they will be the ones who need to know about the potential that this new construction commodity provides, to face the current housing crisis that is lived in the country, as well as the benefits in relation to the environmental impact of this material.

FIG. 2. Counting the Carbon in Mexico’s Forests. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Mass Timber for Mexico? – Narratives is a project of IAAC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at MMTD in 2021/2022 by student Juan Bugarin. Faculty: Daniel Ibáñez. Course: MMTD01 – Narratives