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Are Wood Products Better For The Environment Than Steel Or Concrete?

Sustainable house design

The regeneration of forests has been recognized as a key way to help prevent climate change, as the wood from trees absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air. However, a new study also shows that using sustainable wood resources from regularly harvested forests is actually better for the environment than using concrete or steel; two energy intensive products created using fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide into the air during manufacturing.

According to Bruce Lippke, the University of Washington professor behind this research, “Every time you see a wood building, it’s a storehouse of carbon from the forest. When you see steel or concrete, you’re seeing the emissions of carbon dioxide that had to go into the atmosphere for those structures to go up.”

Since wood can be regrown and harvested shortly after it is cut down and used, creating buildings out of wood offers more carbon dioxide absorption for the environment and cuts down on the amount emitted through factories creating steel, concrete and other nonrenewable resources. Steel and concrete contribute to climate change, while wood prevents it, if the forest is managed n a sustainable way.

Some of the most effective wood products are used for light industrial buildings and houses, which have a useful life of at least 80 years. Replacing steel floor joists with engineered wood joists reduces the carbon footprint of a building by nearly 10 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of wood used. When using wood flooring instead of concrete slab flooring, the carbon footprint is reduced by approximately 3.5 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of wood used.

I would not have thought cutting down trees (carefully and sustainably) would be better for the environment than using hard, durable steel or concrete. But when I think about the pollution released from factories, it only makes sense.

What do you think? Would you consider using wood alternatives to hard steel or concrete products?

via Washington.edu
Image CC licensed by Jeremy Levine Design

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