Increasing the use of timber in construction could significantly reduce global warming, according to a new study from two leading North American universities.
The joint report – from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment – studied the environmental impact of wood products against traditional materials such as steel, concrete and brick.
The partners used life-cycle analyses (LCA), energy analyses, and a range of utilisation efficiencies to determine the carbon dioxide (CO2) and fossil fuel (FF) composition of various wood products.
The results showed that increasing the amount of wood grown and harvested annually, from 20 per cent today to 34 per cent, would have a positive reduction on the amount of carbon emissions in construction and reduce global warming. The study also found that between 14 and 31 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions could be avoided by using timber products instead of alternatives, due to the fact that trees sequestering carbon as they grow and effectively ‘trapping’ it in a building when used in construction.
Dave Hopkins, project director, Wood for Good, said: “This study shows the potential of wood in reducing global emissions and helping lower the world’s environmental footprint. Interestingly, the study also reinforces one of the drivers of sustainable forestry – that harvesting trees before they start to lose their ability to absorb carbon will sequester more carbon than unmanaged forces.
“It comes hot on the heels of the launch of our LCA Database, which contains life-cycle information on major timber products and is designed to help specifiers make informed, environmentally-conscious decisions about the materials they use.”
Download the full report from the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.