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  • Wood for Good launches lifecycle assessment sector database

Wood for Good launches lifecycle assessment sector database

Wood for Good, the timber industry promotion and sustainability campaign, has today (7th April 2014) launched the largest online life-cycle assessment (LCA) database of any UK construction material.

  • Comprehensive LCA data highlights low-carbon benefits of timber products in construction
  • Free-to-use resource designed to boost timber specification
  • Evidence that all timber products have negative carbon footprint on cradle-to-site basis 

The free-to-use database, which was unveiled at London’s Building Centre, has been designed to aid the specification of timber products in construction schemes. It contains environmental performance information on all major timber products from cradle to grave.

Wood for Good has gathered data on every aspect of the lifecycle of timber products, from forestry, harvesting, transportation, processing and manufacturing, through to the various end of life options. The resource includes modern-engineered solutions such as cross-laminated timber (CLT).

Using the data, built environment professionals will be able to make informed decisions about the materials they choose and model the impact this will have on the lifecycle performance of the buildings they design.

A key initial finding from the database is that each of the products studied has a carbon negative rating on a cradle-to-site basis. This means that the amount of carbon absorbed and stored in the timber is greater than that emitted from harvesting, processing and transportation.

David Hopkins, project director at Wood for Good, said:

“Timber products require very low energy inputs for production – relative to many mainstream building materials – and therefore have a low-embodied energy and carbon rating.

“Our conversations with specifiers have revealed that while most are already convinced of this, and the many other benefits of wood, they often lack the empirical evidence to endorse its use with their clients.

“Harnessing all of the environmental and design data that customers need in order to choose timber products in one convenient hub, will support the increased specification of timber.   

“Our initial findings demonstrate that timber has enormous potential to help improve the environmental impact of the building industry. It absorbs carbon dioxide during the growth phase, stores this carbon throughout its life, requires very little energy to process and manufacture and can be used as a low-carbon fuel or a resource for further timber products at end of life. 

 “Through the launch of this resource, and its ongoing development, we aim to position timber as the first choice material for sustainable building.” 

Charlie Law, head of environmental management, BAM Construct UK, commented:

“Building regulations mean all new builds are required to meet high standards when it comes to environmental performance, but currently this does not include the carbon embodied in the materials. Being able to make meaningful comparisons between materials is hugely beneficial, helping us to create low energy and low carbon developments. In conjunction with BIM, this database will help us make those comparisons.” 

The results are the first to be published through Wood First Plus, a multi-stakeholder research and development initiative spearheaded by Wood for Good with funding and support from Scottish Enterprise, Forestry Commission Scotland, Timber Trade Federation and TRADA. 

Future outputs include the publication of LCA studies at whole-building level across a range of building types, as well as the creation of a toolkit which will allow individual companies to generate their own Environmental Product Declarations. 

Wood for Good will also be publishing a “User’s Guide to Life Cycle Assessment” to help project developers use the data in the database and calculate the impacts of their own developments. 

Global sustainability consultancy PE INTERNATIONAL was appointed to oversee the collection and analysis of LCA data for the database and is continuing to work with Wood for Good on the research project. PE has worked with all major materials sectors in the construction industry and conducted a major LCA project on U.S. hardwood lumber for the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) in 2009. 

 

Jane Anderson, Principal Consultant at PE INTERNATIONAL

“The Wood First Plus project highlights the growing use of LCA information in construction projects as specifiers and developers look to minimise their impacts. In an increasingly data-driven market it is imperative for all suppliers to ensure they can provide the information their customers require. This information will help the timber industry market its products and allow their customers to make a more informed choice.” 

 

Alistair McKinnon, director for sustainable construction at Scottish Enterprise

“There is enormous growth potential in the timber industry, particularly for Scottish SME’s across the manufacturing and timber frame development sector in the UK and beyond.  The results from this project will help those companies improve how they position and market their products by helping inform the specification process for their clients.” 

 

Andy Leitch, Forestry Commission Scotland

“This type of project helps develop the market for forest products, our forest industries and our forests themselves. It is vital that we use this data to understand and communicate the benefits of the timber supply chain to all of our stakeholders at every step of the journey. The stronger the market for our forest products, the healthier the future for our forests.” 

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