Benefits of Wood as a Sustainable Building Material (part 3)

By Sophia Christou, 04/13/17

Most industry experts would agree that using timber in construction is the most sustainable building product out there. Not only does it add warmth and character to your home, its raw beauty is furthered by the fact that not only is it natural, but sustainable and eco-friendly. Below are some of the ways you are aiding the environment by using wood.

Wood is an excellent insulator. It loses heat 8x lower than glass, 15x lower than concrete, and 390x lower than steel. By using wood as a building product, you are not only making your home a more comfortable one to live in, but are also helping the environment by reducing your need to cool and heat the house. Wood is also biodegradable, making it a great reusable resource. Saying so, wood is still durable and can last almost indefinitely if protected from insects, bacteria and fungi, or if it is treated with finishes. Therefore, it is still a long-lasting, and eco-friendly choice as a building material.

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Wood products are an excellent way to sequester carbon. When measuring Green House Gas emissions, some of the most common gasses are CO2, carbon dioxide, O, ozone, and CH4, methane. Green house gasses are measured for simplicity in CO2e, carbon dioxide equivalents. This takes into consideration not only CO2, but other green house gasses such as ozone and methane. For reference, CO2 has a global warming potential of 1, and methane has a global warming potential of 25. Methane, as you may know, is produced by cows, and the pollution cows provide is vastly more than that of CO2 production. The amount of CO2 in our atmosphere has raised from 280 ppm (parts per million) to about 380 ppm at present, and 430 ppm of CO2e’s. Therefore, at present, the main concern to reducing our green house gas emissions is to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

One of the ways of decreasing the amount of atmospheric CO2 is to sequester it. Sequestration of carbon can be achieved through the increase of carbon stores within natural building products, such as lumber, and other plant-based products. Half the mass of a tree is carbon, therefor the potential for storing carbon is very high. Utilization of harvested wood products in long-life products, such as Angelim Pedra hardwood decking, allows for the carbon storage benefits of timber to be extended beyond the forest. The harvested wood products pool size can be increased by raising the amount of wood harvesting and by increasing the lifespan of wood products by increased levels of recycling, and improving durability. Products such as Meranti Batu hardwood decking are a durable and long-life product, and by utilizing these high quality products, you are effectively helping the environment by storing carbon.

One might argue that increased atmospheric CO2 would actually help forests grow faster, as CO2 is one of the necessary elements for plants to make oxygen via photosynthesis. While this may or may not be true, the fact is that increased atmospheric CO2 has other repercussions. It will cause droughts, and water is an even more important element necessary for photosynthesis.

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Substituting wood-based products with other building materials, which often have a higher carbon footprint, also brings additional benefits to carbon storage and environmental commitment. Building with concrete actually releases carbon emissions into the air, whereas using wood sequesters it into the framework of the building, making wood a much more eco-friendly option.

By supporting the use of timber as a resource, you are adding more value to the standing forest, encouraging land owners to convert their agricultural ground into forests. If small land owners, like those in Brazil can get more money from their land as a forest instead of a farm, there will be more trees planted, and less burnt down. This creates more wildlife habitat, reduces and sequesters carbon from our atmosphere, and generally makes the world a better, greener place. Please keep these things in mind when purchasing harvested wood products, and always remember to purchase from a certified sustainable company like NOVA.

To learn more or if you have any questions regarding this subject, or any of our products, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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By Sophia Christou, 04/13/17

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