Oct 27, 2022
Sustainable timber in construction – a renewable resource
Wood can make the construction industry much greener, especially if the raw material is sourced using sustainable methods.
Wood is an increasingly popular material in many industries, including construction. In this article, we take a closer look at why sustainable timber is such a valuable renewable resource that brings many climate benefits.
Here at EcoTree, we believe in the power of wood, trees and forests. Sustainable forestry gives us essential, renewable materials that we will need in the future as our climate changes. However, our approach to forest management takes biodiversity and other important ecological factors into account.
Wood is a construction material with several advantages compared to alternatives, such as steel and concrete.
For example, wood is:
- relatively light (strength-to-weight ratio)
- good for insulation
- better for wellbeing
Wood has a very good strength-to-weight ratio. Some types of wood can be transformed to the point where the material becomes even stronger than steel. Its relatively low weight also means that it is easier to transport, which results in fewer transport-related emissions.
Wood is flexible enough to be used in a diverse range of construction design. Itworks well when building both large and small features and recent innovations also mean that timber can be used to build taller and more advanced structures.
Wood has a higher level of insulation than many other materials. That means lower energy consumption for heating and cooling. It saves money and reduces the strain on the environment at the same time.
Wooden buildings can often be assembled on site, which makes them more cost-effective. The relatively low weight also reduces the need for dense, complex foundations that are more expensive to build and use more materials.
However, the biggest advantage of timber is that it is a completely renewable raw material. Many other materials are finite, but if we harvest wood sustainably, it’s a material that will continue to provide.
Finally, research shows that many people say wood feels nicer and cozier, even to the point where it reduces stress. The 2018 Pollinate Health Report shows 13% improvement in wellbeing in wooden buildings, when compared to traditional materials. One reason for this is the acoustic properties or wood, which absorbs sound and minimises echoes.
Historical use of timber in construction
Historically, wood has a long tradition as a construction material. Evidence shows that it has been used for construction as far back as 10,000 years ago. Since then, wood has been used to build everything from modest cabins to huge, impressive monuments.
Modern construction methods introduced materials such as steel and concrete. But the environmental impact was not considered until later, with many buildings constructed using substandard materials.
As protecting the environment became a higher priority, particularly with the rise of climate change and pollution, wood has become more popular again. The benefits of timber are pretty clear and we at EcoTree are delighted to see timber playing such an increased role in the construction industry.
Sourcing wood for construction means harvesting the raw materials from the forest. There are several reasons to fell trees.
- Removing specific trees gives others more light and space.
- They have reached the appropriate size and their environment no longer depends on them.
- There are pests, such as the spruce bark beetle causing damage to trees and the wider habitat.
At EcoTree, we practise ‘irregular forest management’, which means we combine different tree species and sizes to create resilient forests with rich biodiversity. We don’t perform clear-cuts where large areas go uncovered - trees are harvested selectively to keep the forest healthy for generations to come.
Climate benefits of wood
According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the construction and building sector is responsible for around 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Moving to more sustainable construction materials is essential for the planet’s climate. And as it gets more expensive to pollute, with more regulations, fines and taxes, not to mention lost business opportunities, companies will need to find new, innovative ways to do business.
Trees and the timber they provide are natural carbon sinks that contain CO2 sequestered from the earth's atmosphere. The timber continues to serve as a carbon sink for a long time, even after the trees have been cut down.
Other building materials also take a very long time to degrade naturally. Traditional building materials like concrete and steel decompose very slowly. As waste, they pose a significant environmental hazard. This is not the case with wood.
The importance of sustainable forestry
Forests are an excellent source of renewable material, but without a sustainable approach to forestry, we cannot guarantee that they will be able to provide for future generations. Any cuts need to be selective to respect the local ecology and make sure forests continue to develop and grow.
It’s also good to keep in mind that sustainable forestry and wood production is a long-term commitment. The trees need many years to grow before they can be used as a source of renewable building material.
This is the essence of EcoTree’s model. We believe in the power of wood as a valuable renewable resource, but first and foremost in healthy forests that remain so in the future as well.
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