Building With Wood
With the Industrial Revolution, steel and concrete became the dominant construction materials. Wood use declined, relegated to single-family homes and low-rise structures. But that is beginning to change thanks to high-strength wood technologies, namely glued laminated timber (glulam) and cross-laminated timber (CLT), and the need to reduce emissions from construction.
Building with wood has two key climate benefits:
- As they grow, trees absorb and sequester carbon, which remains stored in timber construction materials. A unit of dry wood is 50 percent carbon, and that carbon is locked in while the wood is in use.
- The process of producing those materials generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than wood’s alternatives, like cement or steel.
According to a 2014 study, building with wood could reduce annual global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 to 31 percent.
Conventional wisdom suggests that wood and high-rise buildings are incompatible, and that flammability is an issue. A renaissance in the processing and manufacturing of wood is challenging those limitations. New high-performance products are more fire resistant, as well as more cost-effective and stronger than ever. What’s more, they can be prefabricated and then put together like a giant piece of furniture, reducing construction costs.
Technical summaries for each solution will be available May 1, 2017.