Wood is the future for sustainable construction

“While concrete and steel contribute to carbon emissions, wood reduces them”

With the exception of water, which we all drink, bathe, and clean with every day, concrete is the planet’s most widely used substance. In fact, the amount of concrete we’ve used as a species is twice the amount of steel, wood, plastics and aluminium combined. This might seem shocking, but it is a direct result of the rapid industrialisation we’ve seen worldwide over the past seven decades. Concrete has been a crucial part of building the industrialised world – and there’s no doubt that this world has benefitted humanity. However, it does come with a large cost.

That cost, in short, is carbon emissions. Concrete creates so much greenhouse gas that, if the cement industry were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest carbon dioxide emitter (the US and China are in spots one and two). According to a 2018 report, concrete makes up a whopping 8% of global annual CO2 emissions, and gobbles up about 10% of all water used in industry. This is the price tag that comes along with the modern world, and we are paying it right now. It has led to environmental crisis and global warming. However, there is one way we could drastically reduce the environmental impact of construction, aiding the planet instead of injuring it – and that is to use wood instead of concrete.

Unlike concrete (and steel, another popular building material) wood does not contribute to global warming. In fact, it has the capacity to reduce it, as wood is a natural carbon capture device. Wood has emerged, in recent years, as a mainstay of sustainable construction. And, thanks to innovations like modified timber and specialised treatments, wood is more versatile and durable than ever before.

With the government pledging to “build back better” following the coronavirus, and in light of its ambitious new carbon emission targets, the stage is set for wood to shine. According to Dr Aurore Julien, senior lecturer in environmental design at the University of East London’s School of Architecture and Design: “Every time a new building is built this results in carbon emissions. And we consume buildings in the same way that we consume everything else.”

“For new buildings, the energy regulations are pushing energy consumption and carbon emissions down to the point that the main carbon emissions from new buildings through their life cycle come from their construction and materials. The manufacture of steel and concrete results in high carbon emissions. In some cases, steel can be imported over long distances, even from China, which adds considerably to its carbon impact.”

Sustainably sourced timber from managed forests clearly has a huge role to play in the future of construction. The sooner this becomes a reality, the better off our planet – and our species – will be. We can supply a wide range of high-quality timbers from ethically managed forests, perfect for all your construction needs. To make an enquiry, please call 0845 50 50 311.