Aerial view of the sustainably managed forests of British Columbia (B.C.), Canada.
Trees clean the air we breathe by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing the carbon in their wood, roots, leaves or needles and surrounding soil, and releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere. Young, vigorously growing trees absorb the most carbon dioxide, with the rate slowing as they reach maturity.
When trees start to decay or when forests succumb to wildfire, insects or disease, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. However, when trees are harvested and manufactured into forest products, the products continue to store much of the carbon. In the case of wood buildings, this carbon is kept out of the atmosphere for the lifetime of the structure—or longer if the wood is reclaimed and manufactured into other products.
In any of these cases, the carbon cycle begins again as the forest is regenerated, either naturally or by planting, and young seedlings once again begin absorbing carbon.
Manufacturing wood into products requires far less energy than other materials, and very little fossil fuel energy. Most of the energy that is used comes from converting residual bark and sawdust to electrical and thermal energy, adding to wood’s light carbon footprint. This is particularly interesting to policymakers and design professionals alike. They realise the positive impact forests and forest products have on greenhouse gases.
Wood from British Columbia (B.C.), Canada is procured from sustainably managed forests and third-party certified to forest certification standards such as PEFC / FSC, assuring Indian customers of its environmental credentials.
The process of a building’s life cycle includes the harvest of raw material, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of the same.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a powerful performance-based tool to help gauge the impacts of building materials on the environment. It is now incorporated into many green building standards worldwide.
When compared to other popular construction materials used in urban spaces today, steel and concrete for example, wood emerges as the clear winner. This is in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution, carbon footprint, and global warming potential. Wood has a lighter carbon footprint than other common building materials and is much less ‘greenhouse gas intensive’ on a life cycle basis. It is also the only truly sustainable resource with third party certifications in place to verify that the products have come from a sustainably managed source. Wood also produces the least amount of solid waste and is therefore the ideal material in which to invest for construction purposes.
A quick comparison of the Life Cycle Assessment of different materials shows wood as the material of choice for a better environment. With attention turning to sustainable design and LCA-based tools that identify the lowest impact alternatives, more designers will become familiar with the environmental advantages of wood, and wood products will be a building material of choice for a growing range of applications.
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