Wood is the ultimate green building material. It can be produced on an endlessly renewable cycle that both protects the environment and sustains rural communities. Its production consumes less energy, emits fewer greenhouse gases, releases fewer pollutants, stores more carbon, and generates less water pollution compared with other building materials such as steel and concrete. It’s also safe, durable and beautiful. What’s not to love about it?
WOOD IS A NATURAL, RENEWABLE RESOURCE
Wood grows naturally and is a renewable product of sustainably managed working forests. After we harvest our trees and make them into a multitude of different wood products, we replant the forest and start the cycle over again.
We harvest only 2 percent of our land base each year, which means 98 percent of our forests are always growing and providing numerous benefits to society and the planet, including wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and a variety of important ecosystem services. We plant about 150 million seedlings each year on our harvested sites — that’s more than 400,000 per day, more than 17,000 per hour and about five per second.
WOOD PRODUCTS STORE CARBON
As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store the carbon in their trunks, limbs, roots and leaves. When we harvest trees at their peak of growth and turn them into wood products, such as lumber, we lock that carbon into the product, and then replant new trees to store more carbon. It's an ever-increasing equation.
Trees grow by harnessing the energy of the sun. Independent life-cycle assessments substantiate the low energy intensity of wood products compared with the energy-intensive processes required to mine and manufacture other building materials. Wood buildings also tend to last longer than buildings made of concrete and steel, which keeps materials out of landfills and uses fewer resources over time.
Researchers have found that buildings made primarily out of wood have lower embodied energy — a measure of all the energy required to make a product — compared to steel and concrete. In particular, separate studies published in Energy and Buildings and the Journal of Forestry, as well as findings from the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials, have determined that houses constructed with wood have anywhere between 17 to 58 percent lower embodied energy than those made of steel, and anywhere between 16 to 55 percent lower embodied energy than those made of concrete.