Architects, designers, contractors and homeowners all have a time-tested way to help the environment – use wood.
Building with wood has the smallest impact on the environment before, during, and after construction. Homes constructed with wood products reduce energy use, use fewer natural resources and decrease overall environmental impacts. As the only self-renewable building material, wood does not need outside chemicals to regenerate and uses very little fossil fuels and natural resources to assemble it into a suitable building material. Sustainable forest management practices ensure that the supply of wood is not only being replaced but increased each time it is used.
An essential part of green building is evaluating the environmental impacts of building materials and assemblies. A consistent and objective way to measure this is through life- cycle assessment (LCA).
LCA evaluates materials over the course of their entire service duration, from extraction through manufacturing, transportation, installation, use, maintenance and disposal or recycling. This process accounts for a full range of impacts over the course of a product’s life span. Impact categories include, among other things, energy use, global warming potential, air pollution and solid waste output. And when considering the life-cycle of wood construction, wood-framed buildings have a 100-year track record for safety and dependability. Wood’s unique cellular structure contains air pockets that limit its ability to conduct heat, which makes it a better insulator than other materials. This helps to minimize the energy needed for heating and cooling a structure.
Building with wood also aids in the fight against climate change. Wood construction fights climate change in two ways: 1) using less fossil fuels in the building process and 2) limiting the number of decaying trees which produce carbon dioxide, the primary ingredient for global warming.
Growing trees absorb carbon dioxide and release clean oxygen. The absorbed carbon dioxide is stored in the trees or wood products made from trees until they burn or biodegrade. At a certain point, depending on the tree species and growing conditions, carbon dioxide absorption tapers off. If a forest is allowed to decay, the stored carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. However, if the forest is harvested sustainably and manufactured into building products, carbon dioxide is stored into the materials and the forest generates younger trees that absorb even more carbon dioxide – achieving a net reduction in global emissions.
Wood surpasses its competitors in multiple facets not only in green, or environmentally friendly, building but in all general construction. To have the smallest impact on the environment, architects, designers, homeowners and contractors should consider environmentally friendly tactics. To learn more about environmentally friendly building with wood and other green building strategies, visit the green building page of SouthernPine.com.