Building Green with Wood

Building with wood has huge environmental and economic benefits, and in a world moving toward cleaner, greener products, wood from sustainably managed forests is being hailed as one of the greenest building materials from the USDA and others.

The entire life cycle of wood is green. Grown in forests certified by third party verification, California‘s forests are managed under some of the most stringent standards in the world.  Under the California Forest Practice Act, foresters take a comprehensive approach to their long-term sustainability – taking into account the balance of wildlife habitat, watersheds and overall forest health, with the demand for renewable wood products.

California’s forests serve as huge carbon sinks, storing 2.469 billion tons of carbon.  When trees are harvested and made into wood products, those products continue to store that same carbon for life.

The industry itself is green, utilizing every part of tree for renewable energy, wood products and more.  In fact, a report by the American Wood Council, shows that the forest products industry is the largest producer and user of bioenergy, of any industrial sector.  In fact, they cite that their companies have met over 75 percent of their energy needs from biomass in the last decade.

Biomass is simply a byproduct of forestry operations, but it’s not wasted.  It goes to power sawmills, homes and local businesses ‑‑ making its use in California forestry vitally important to community safety; clean energy goals and waste reduction.

Biomass takes a waste product and uses it to displace the use of fossil fuels for clean, renewable energy.  Calforests and its partners have fought hard in the past years to protect a dwindling industry and thankfully saw some success in 2016 with the passage of SB 859 and an additional 50 megawatts from the Public Utilities Commission under the Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force.  Although we recognize that it’s a great first step, we are looking at more long-term solutions.

As a building material, wood is better for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and air and water pollution.  In fact wood consumes 12 and 20 percent less energy than steel or concrete, respectively.  It’s even more energy efficient, acting as an excellent insulator.

Steel and concrete emit 15 percent and 29 percent more greenhouse gases; release 10 percent and 12 percent more pollutants into the air; and, generate 300 percent and 225 percent more water pollutants than wood, respectively.

And with new technology, Cross Laminated Timber is increasingly being used in the construction of tall wood buildings.  According to Wood Works, architects and contractors are turning toward wood buildings because of the economic savings, as well as its’ sustainable and aesthetically pleasing properties.  According to recent case studies, these buildings are saving energy, time and reducing pollutants.  A win-win for everyone involved.

As the economy begins to recover and new building construction increases, we expect to see a rise in the demand for sustainable wood products, and with more than 33 million acres of productive forestland, California’s forests can help grow our green economy.