Revitalizing South Korea’s Wooden Construction: NIFoS and XiGEIST Join Forces for Innovation

By: Lance Tao

Export Development Program, Canada Wood Group

On August 18th, the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS), part of the Korea Forest Service and XiGEIST, a prefab builder, sealed a momentous business agreement. This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) marks a pivotal step towards rejuvenating South Korea’s domestic wooden construction industry. The primary objectives of this collaboration are to modernize modular construction methods and elevate the overall quality of wooden construction. Central to this MOU is the establishment of a cooperative framework designed to bolster the use and value of domestic wood within the construction sector. In essence, NIFoS and XiGEIST are committed to breathing new life into an industry that has been a cornerstone of South Korea’s architectural heritage. NIFoS, under the aegis of the Korea Forest Service, has taken proactive measures to promote the use of domestic wood in construction. They have introduced a Korean-style wooden house model, made accessible to the public, and built demonstration to showcase various wooden structures, including the country’s tallest 5-story Hangreen wooden building. In parallel, XiGEIST, a subsidiary of GS E&C, made significant strides in 2020 through the acquisition of modular housing companies in Poland and the UK. This strategic move enabled the introduction of prefab (modular) construction techniques, utilizing pre-manufactured small wood-framed units through an automated process. Since the start of this year, XiGEIST has been offering a diverse range of wooden housing solutions. Crucially, the Canada Wood Korea Office has played a pivotal role in supporting XiGEIST’s technical requirements and providing essential training. We have also actively championed the use of Canadian wood in XiGEIST’s prefab construction endeavors. The increasing popularity of wooden construction in South Korea can be attributed to several factors, including rising prosperity and government policies that support decentralization in urban areas. Additionally, government initiatives aimed at achieving passive and zero-energy buildings by 2025 are boosting the prospects for wood within South Korea’s construction industry. While the Korea Forest Service (KFS) actively promotes the use of domestic wood in the growing wooden construction market, Canada is well-positioned to take advantage of market opportunities. This is due to Canada’s high-quality wood products, standardized production, and the limited availability of domestic wood for construction purposes. Recent data reveals that South Korea’s wood self-sufficiency rate was 15% in 2022, down from 17.4% in 2013, underscoring the potential for external suppliers like Canada.

This collaboration between NIFoS and XiGEIST represents a significant step forward in reshaping South Korea’s wooden construction industry. With innovation, strategic acquisitions, and international expertise at its core, this partnership has the potential to redefine the landscape of wooden construction, not just in South Korea but also as a beacon of sustainable progress.