More Proof That Wood Is The Greenest Building Material


Stair at Art Gallery of Ontario by Frank Gehry; Image credit Wood Works Ontario

Tim Wall at Discovery News adds another "R" to our growing list (we are up to ten): Reconsider our choices of building materials. He points us to a new study published in Carbon Management that looks at the full life-cycle analysis of using wood instead of other materials.
Image credit CORRIM

Lead Author Bruce Lippke of the University of Washington explains in a press release:

Every time you see a wood building, it's a storehouse of carbon from the forest. When you see steel or concrete, you're seeing the emissions of carbon dioxide that had to go into the atmosphere for those structures to go up.

We have previously shown a study that claimed that wood didn't really sequester all that much carbon, because so much was lost to slash, mill waste, processing and transport. I had my problems with that study, and am relieved that this one tells a different story.


A Northwest state or private forest, harvested regularly for 100 years, helps keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere year after year by storing carbon in long-term wood products (blue) and by substituting wood for fossil-fuel-intensive products like steel and cement, thus avoids carbon dioxide emissions during their manufacture (orange). Image credit university of Washington

The authors propose " growing wood as fast as possible, harvesting before tree growth begins to taper off and using the wood in place of products that are most fossil-fuel intensive." According to Lippke:

While the carbon in the wood stored in forests is substantial, like any garden, forests have limited capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they age. And there's always a chance a fire will sweep through a mature forest, immediately releasing the carbon dioxide in the trees back to the atmosphere.However, like harvesting a garden sustainably, we can use the wood grown in our forests for products and biofuels to displace the use of fossil-intensive products and fuels like steel, concrete, coal and oil.

More from the University of Washington and Discovery News.
More on Building with Wood:
Time To Grow, Cut and Use More Wood
Wood Construction Scales Up
Nine Storey Apartment Built Of Wood in Nine Weeks By Four Workers

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Tags: Carbon Sequestration | Green Building