Building with Wood: Proactive Climate Protection

Lead Author: Dr. Jeff Howe

Publish date: 01.21.2015

 

Forests play a critical role in filtering and renewing our air. Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O), and release oxygen (O2). The carbon absorbed is stored until the trees die and decay or are burned in a wildfire, at which point the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Some of the carbon absorbed by trees is stored for a long period of time within the forest.

 

Less known is the fact that trees use carbon (CO2) to produce wood, and that products made from wood continue to store carbon for as long as they exist. In fact, one-half the weight of wood is carbon. The ability of wood to store large quantities of carbon for long periods of time sets wood apart from, and provides a significant advantage over other building materials such as steel and concrete.

 

Wood not only stores large quantities of carbon, but its manufacture into useful products results in significantly lower emissions of greenhouse and other gases than does the production of other materials. This is because trees create wood using solar energy and, once formed, relatively little additional energy is needed to manufacture wood products. In addition, a large portion of the energy used in North American forest products manufacturing facilities is produced from biomass – bark, sawdust, and small wood scraps – meaning that the amount of fossil fuel energy used to produce wood products is vastly lower than other materials