Building With Wood: A No Brainer
Natural Resources The perpetual construction and maintenance of buildings consumes a huge proportion of our natural resources.
Question: how is the use of wood products environmentally and economically sustainable?
Answer: production processes release far less pollutants into the atmosphere.
How can we continue this process in an environmentally sustainable way? As it turns out, the answer lies in a building material as ancient as building itself— wood. Raising the public consciousness According to Peter Moonen, sustainability coordinator for the Canadian Wood Council (CWC), wood is undoubtedly the preferred building material for residential construction.
"Remarkably, if these trees are harvested before they die, the Co2 remains trapped in the wood and cannot escape into the atmosphere."
Through its WoodWorks initiative, the CWC strives to maximize the number of structures, both residential and commercial, that are made out of wood by showcasing its environmental and economic benefits. A free environmental ride Unlike artificial building materials like steel and concrete, wood is the only building material that is renewable. Powered directly by the sun’s radiation and the water cycle, our forests can be continuously replenished with minimal effort on our part.
Thanks in part to laws requiring reforestation of logged areas, Canada enjoys a deforestation rate of virtually zero. According to the CWC, steel and concrete building designs produce 34 percent and 81 percent more greenhouse gases compared to wood materials, respectively. Moreover, trees actually absorb Co2 —the most damaging green-house gas—and convert it into breathable oxygen.
Remarkably, if these trees are harvested before they die, the Co2 remains trapped in the wood and cannot escape into the atmosphere. When it comes to water pollution there is no contest, with steel and concrete producing four and 3.5 times more water pollution than wood materials.
Using wood’s full potential
When used in conjunction with re- cent technological advancements such as exterior grade structural plywood and cross-laminated timber (A.K.A “plywood on steroids”), the service life of wood is as long as those of artificial building materials. Furthermore, wood is resistant to a wide range of substances that wreak havoc on steel and concrete materials.
These include organic com- pounds, acid and neutral salt solutions, sea air, high relative humidity, industrial stack gases and sea air. The upshot is that if you know how to design with wood properly, it is just as cost-effective as steel or concrete.
Combine this fact with its renewability, and it is difficult to see why anyone would want to build with steel or concrete when wood is a viable option. Motivated by these facts, designers and builders are flocking back to wood. Light, strong, biodegradable and aesthetically pleasing, wood is a large part of the solution to the economic and environmental woes facing the construction industry in the 21st century.