Why Wood as a Building Material?

The most obvious answer to this question is wood is beautiful! Trees breath in carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen. The carbon dioxide is locked up in its trunk and will be released slowly only once the wood begins to rot and return to the soil. Wood is a solution to Global Warming rather than a cause.

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is the recognized international approach to assess the environmental merits of products or processes as set out in the ISO 14000 series of standards.

LCA includes the entire life cycle of a product, process, or activity, from extracting and processing raw materials to manufacturing, transportation and distribution, use, maintenance, recycling and final disposition.

It includes environmental impacts such as acid rain, air pollution, ecological toxicity, fossil fuel depletion, global warming, habitat alteration, human health, indoor air quality, ozone depletion, smog, and water intake (current cradle to grave system). Based on LCA, wood products have proven to be one of the most environmentally responsible building products. Where materials are designed to be returned safely to the soil or to flow back to industry to be used again, wood is a material that can be recycled or reused and ultimately is biodegradable. With good forest management practices, wood is the most environmentally responsible building material.

Relative to the wood design, the steel and concrete designs

  • embody 26% and 57% more energy in its raw material extraction, transportation and manufacture;
  • emit 34% and 81% more greenhouse gases;
  • release 24% and 47% more air pollution;
  • discharge 4 and 3.5 times more water pollution;
  • use 11% and 81% more resources from a weighted resource use perspective; and
  • produce 8% and 23% more solid wastes, respectively.

No data was given for plastic as a building material but it is probably fair to assume that it is far worse than steel or concrete.

from Canadian Wood Council “Sustainable Building Series No. 1”