Summary: The use of timber as a structural element in buildings, replacing steel or concrete, is on the rise. And, in many cases this is a good thing. Timber can be a cost effective, lower carbon and more sustainable solution. But we can sometimes carry this narrative too far. Not all timber in buildings is good.
Why this is important: The provenance of materials is key. The carbon footprint of mass timber is impacted by how and from where the wood was sourced and transported, and what happens to it at the end of its useful life.
The big theme: The built environment generates 40% of energy-related GHG emissions and it consumes 40% of global raw materials. So, it's not surprising that it's a target for a lot of new regulation - aimed at making our buildings more energy efficient and improving their sustainability. The good news is that there are many financially viable tools and techniques we can use to deliver on this. But as with all of the transitions, we need to avoid green washing, by ensuring that the environmental and societal gains are real, and that we find ways of actually delivering the financial benefits we are seeking.
Summary of an article in dezeen Magazine
Amy Leedham: Mass-timber buildings can have very high carbon emissions March 2023
Mass timber's reputation as the go-to low-carbon construction material is a problematic oversimplification that is leading to greenwashing, says carbon expert Amy Leedham. Mass timber is a term for engineered-wood products – strong structural components that typically consist of layers of wood bonded together. It is increasing in popularity in the construction industry due to wood's ability to sequester carbon, which means timber generally has a lower embodied carbon when compared to materials such as concrete and steel.