Wood may be the most renewable building material
It’s no secret that other building materials boast qualities that wood does not. At the same time, the timeless natural beauty of wood is far from its biggest selling point. Optimal renewability, carbon absorption, and flexible design are among three main benefits that put wood head-and-shoulders above its competitors.
When compared to other building materials, wood comes out as the most renewable option. In fact, most manufactured building materials require fossil fuels for their production, during which they emit CO2 into the atmosphere. Comparing wood with steel highlights this fact. While growth and production of a ton of wood actually absorbs a total of 1.7 tons of CO2 , production of the same weight of steel emits 1.2 tons of CO2. If we compare two houses, one constructed with a steel frame and the other constructed with a wood frame, production of the quantity of steel used in the steel-frame house results in the emission of 4.5 tons of CO2, while the wood used in the wood-frame house is responsible for having absorbed 9.5 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. That same 9.5 tons of absorbed CO2 is equivalent to nearly 30,000 miles worth of emissions by the average automobile. For anyone who cares about the carbon footprint they’ll leave behind, wood framing is clearly the preferred choice.
Biosequestration is a natural process that separates atmospheric carbon and locks it into organic materials. Because plants breathe in the Carbon Dioxide humans breathe out (and which many processes and manufactured products emit), plants contribute to keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. What’s more, when plants capture the Carbon, plants retain it even after they die and biodegrade into the soil. As a result, using timber frames in construction allows us to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, instead of adding to the emissions that threaten a healthy environment.
An average house uses around 10,000 kilowatt hours of energy each year, resulting in the emission of 2.3 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. A wooden framed house starts out with a credit, due to the amount of CO2 previously absorbed by the trees that provided the wood for the house; this CO2 credit, which a wooden framed house begins with, offsets 4 years' worth of typical CO2 emissions. In contrast, a steel-framed house ends up releasing an extra 2 years' worth of emissions into the atmosphere - a total of 6 more years' worth than a wooden framed house.
Certainly, steel can be recycled after the building has reached the end of its life, but that process requires significant processing energy, which means more fossil fuel emissions. At the same time, wood left to rot back into the soil will continue to retain the CO2 it has been storing, permanently offsetting Carbon emissions.
Timber framing provides the potential for easily adaptable design, both during the construction process and for future renovations. In addition, builders know that wood construction provides an easier and quicker erection than steel. Beyond framing, wood has the capability to contribute to a vast array of designs, from traditional to modern, ornate to simple. When remodeling takes place, the issues regarding renewability and carbon absorption regain significance, highlighting again these core issues connected to environmental stewardship.
As your source for high-quality domestic and exotic lumber species, all harvested and milled in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, contact J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber to order materials for your next build.