Though it may seem counterintuitive, scientific research suggests that wood is actually a very green construction material, especially relative to steel or concrete. This is largely due to the fact that it takes a large amount of energy to produce steel and concrete, and because using wood to create buildings is an easy way of sequestering CO2 for long periods of time.
Further boosting our belief in wood, is the fact that new forms of engineered lumber are greatly expanding the number of structures that can be created out of wood.
We feel that wood’s environmental friendliness, coupled with the vast array of new ways in which it can be applied in construction, will increasingly make it the building material of choice in years to come.
If you would like to learn more about the environmental benefits of building with wood, and the new forms of wooden structures that are now being created, check out the information below.
The hottest new thing is sustainable building is, uh, wood?
- “Roughly 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from building materials and construction; another 28 percent comes from building operations, which mostly involve energy. As energy gets cleaner in coming years, materials and construction will represent a growing fraction of buildings’ carbon impact. That’s what mass timber aims to reduce.”
- “…substituting mass timber for concrete and steel avoids the carbon embedded in those materials, which is substantial. Cement and concrete manufacture are responsible for around 8 percent of global GHG emissions, more than any country save the US and China. The global iron and steel industry is responsible for another 5 percent. Something like half a ton of CO2 is emitted to manufacture a ton of concrete; 2 tons of CO2 are emitted in the manufacture of a ton of steel. All those embodied emissions are avoided when CLT (cross laminated timber) is substituted.”
- Exactly how those three carbon effects balance out will depend on individual cases, but research suggests that, for all but the most poorly managed forests, the overall impact of using CLT in place of concrete and steel will be a reduction in
- GHGs. A 2014 study in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry looked deep into the question of the carbon effects of large-scale substitution of wood products for alternatives and concluded: “Globally, both enough extra wood can be harvested sustainably and enough infrastructure of buildings and bridges needs to be built to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 14 to 31% and fossil fuel consumption by 12 to 19% if part of this infrastructure were made of wood.” The biggest drop in CO2 emissions came, it said, from “avoiding the excess [fossil fuel] energy used to make steel and concrete structures.”
- More recently, a team at the University of Washington attempted a full, soup-to-nuts lifecycle analysis comparing a “hybrid, mid-rise, cross-laminated timber (CLT) commercial building” to “a reinforced concrete building with similar functional characteristics.” After tallying up all the many factors, they concluded that the CLT building represented a “26.5% reduction in global warming potential.”
Has the wooden skyscraper revolution finally arrived?
- Published in February of 2020
- “(S)oaring above the neighboring Mjøsa lake, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Oslo, the 280-foot-tall Mjøstårnet tower became the world’s tallest timber building when it opened last year. The 18-story structure contains apartments, office space and the aptly named Wood Hotel. And beyond putting a small town on the world map, it has added to a growing body of evidence that timber can provide a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel.”
- “The latest update to the International Building Code (IBC), which many countries and US states use as a base model for their own regulations, will allow timber buildings to rise to 18 stories for the first time. The decision is significant given that, before 2018, when Oregon became the first US state to allow 18-story wooden buildings, nowhere in America permitted anything higher than six.”
Cross Laminated Timber Market Size, Share, Trends By Type (Adhesive Bonded And Mechanically Fastened), By Application (Walls, Floor Slabs, Roofing Panels), By End-Use (Residential, Commercial, Institutional) Forecasts To 2027
- Published July 2020
- “The global Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) market was valued at USD 786.71 Million in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 2,021.29 Million by the year 2027, at a CAGR of 12.51%. By Volume, the market is expected to reach 3,237.61 thousand cubic meters in 2027 from 1,411.55 thousand cubic meters in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 11.23%. Cross Laminated Timber refers to panels made of wood that are glued together. Each layer of the panel is usually oriented perpendicular to adjacent layers and glued on the broad faces of each board.”
- “From multi-family homes, industrial buildings, recreation centers, to college campus buildings, CLT is being used widely. Thus, by being flexible, sustainable, and more efficient than concrete, CLT has changed the construction landscape and is becoming the preferred choice for builders.”
- “The buildings using CLT are cost-competitive to those built with steel and concrete. The most significant contributor to cost savings in this case is prefabrication. The prefabricated materials ensure complete coordination between design, manufacturing, and onsite construction. Overall project costs are reduced because the construction schedule is shorter, and materials are brought to the site ready to be installed.”
The wood from the trees: The use of timber in construction (From Science Direct)
- “Contemporary construction of tall buildings from timber, in whole or in part, suggests a growing interest in the potential for building with wood at a scale not previously attainable.”
- “And what should we build with wood? Are skyscrapers in timber a good use of this natural resource, or are there other aspects of civil and structural engineering, or large-scale infrastructure, that would be a better use of wood? Here, we consider a holistic picture ranging in scale from the science of the cell wall to the engineering and global policies that could maximize forestry and timber construction as a boon to both people and the planet.”
Michael Green’s TED Talk: “Why we should build wooden skyscrapers”
Why Finland is Building a Wood City