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  • UK could store 3.8 million tonnes of CO2 annually in new build timber homes

UK could store 3.8 million tonnes of CO2 annually in new build timber homes

New build homes in the UK could be effective carbon ‘banks’, capturing and storing nearly 4 million tonnes of CO2 every year if housing targets were met through timber-frame construction, new research from the timber industry’s sustainability campaign has revealed.

The figures were released by Wood for Good which has today (Monday 22nd September) launched its ‘Build with Carbon’ campaign. It aims to demonstrate how increased timber construction can act as an effective emissions reduction and carbon storage mechanism, while helping meet social need and driving vital investment into our forests.

The campaign is supported by a series of animations which illustrate how carbon dioxide is captured by trees and stored thereafter in wood products.

The films show that an average three-bed, timber-framed house sequesters and stores roughly 19 tonnes of CO2, meaning that if the UK was to reach the Labour party’s aspiration of building 200,000 homes per year – using timber frame methods – an additional 3.81million tonnes of CO2 would be locked away every year.

The figures were calculated using the Wood for Good Lifecycle Database. This data shows that all timber products studied have a carbon negative footprint – i.e they have absorbed and stored more carbon dioxide than has been emitted in the supply chain through harvesting, kilning, processing, manufacture and transportation.

David Hopkins, executive director of Wood for Good said: “Our message is simple - Build with Carbon. All timber products represent carbon emissions which have been sequestered and stored – acting as a physical carbon market not a derivative one. We need to encourage the trade in this physical carbon market and in so doing drive investment back into our forests.”

“Building with timber is the safest and cheapest form of carbon capture and storage available. We estimate it costs roughly £25-30 per tonne of CO2 captured and stored using mixed woodland forestry. In addition, by storing emissions in buildings you are turning a polluting liability into an asset. Carbon emissions can be accounted for in property, on balance sheet, as an appreciating asset. That has to be better than pumping them into the North Sea.”

The video animations, produced by data-visualisation experts Carbon Visuals, illustrate the carbon captured in one tree, a hectare of forest, one house and a typical estate. They visualise one tonne of carbon dioxide at normal atmospheric pressure as a 33ft wide sphere, with the CO2 stored in 200,000 three-bed homes forming a pile of carbon dioxide spheres far taller than the buildings of Canary Wharf.

Hopkins, added: “Using timber in long-life applications such as buildings means more trees will have been planted, grown and harvested before the timber product reaches its end of life. This provides for an emissions reduction and storage mechanism – with more carbon emissions being added to the store in each harvesting and each new building.

“Of course, not all housing needs will be met through building three-bed semi-detached housing as modelled in this study. There will be far greater variety of building types particularly in dense urban areas but our animations illustrate what can be achieved and more.

“We aim to illustrate the benefits the timber supply chain can bring to the climate debate to encourage the construction industry and policy makers to start building with carbon, rather than emitting it.”

“These videos can be understood by any audience and we can’t think of a better time to launch them than at the start of the UN’s Climate Summit, which convenes this week in New York.”

In addition to high sequestered carbon, timber products also require very low energy input for production compared to other mainstream building materials giving them very low embodied carbon values. Using predominantly offsite construction methods, timber engineering can also slash house-building times by up to 14-weeks, with associated cost benefits. Yet despite this, the majority of UK housing continues to be delivered through carbon intensive building methods.

Wood for Good’s ‘Build with Carbon’ campaign and “Follow the Tree” animations are supported by a range of still images and case studies of existing timber buildings in the UK from schools to high rise housing and even an individual wooden window frame.

If you would like to learn more please visit: www.woodforgood.com or contact David Hopkins: dhopkins@woodforgood.com

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