Growing our low-carbon future: Part 1 – Time for timber

By | 2021-11-29T09:13:50+00:00 November 29th, 2021|

By CEI-Bois and UK TTF

The construction and built environment sector is responsible for approximately 40% of global energy related CO₂ emissions. A significant percentage of this comes from the extraction, processing and energy-intensive manufacturing of building products.

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To achieve net zero CO₂ emissions by 2050, construction must rapidly decarbonise whilst still meeting the needs of a growing urban population, the increasing demand for new buildings and the urgent requirement to renovate existing buildings.

Wood is the only sustainable structural material that grows worldwide which can enable a substantial decarbonisation of the built environment based on existing business models and proven technology; providing vast carbon sinks in our rural areas and carbon stores in our cities.

Wood is a naturally renewable material which:

  1. Sequesters carbon in forests as trees grow.
  2. Stores carbon in harvested wood products.
  3. Substitutes for carbon intensive materials such as steel, concrete and plastics.
  4. Drives sustainable forest management leading to greater growth.
  5. Contributes to a Circular economy as wood products can be reused, recycled and recovered for low-carbon energy at end-of-life.

The climate case for wood

The built environment is responsible for approximately 40% of global carbon emissions. This comes from two main sources:

  • The energy we consume within buildings for heating, cooling and lighting (operational emissions).
  • The emissions associated with the extraction, processing and manufacture of building products (embodied emissions).

Increasing the use of wood is an effective way of reducing both.

Timber has naturally insulating properties, as it is 10 times more thermally efficient than concrete and 400 times more than steel, reducing operational emissions created due to heat loss within buildings. This makes timber and timber products ideal for the renovation and improvement of energy performance in existing buildings.

Lifecycle Assessment studies consistently show that timber products absorb and store more carbon than is emitted through their production – making them a net carbon reducer.

Using more wood in the built environment, including in furniture and interiors, is a natural, cost-effective, and sustainable carbon-capture solution – as once managed forests are harvested they are replanted or allowed to regenerate naturally and carbon sequestration continues. Increased investment in sustainable timber also provides viable income for local communities and creates incentives for sustainable forest management, preventing deforestation and encouraging conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

In addition, using wood products in construction displaces the use of carbon intensive alternatives such as steel, concrete and plastics, thus reducing emissions even further.

‘Growing our low-carbon future: Time for Timber’ was produced by CEI-Bois and UK TTF