The construction industry has a larger impact on the environment than most realize. The United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA) found that 15 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from industrial processes, including the production and consumption of building materials, namely steel and cement. For this reason, architects, builders and contractors are turning to green buildingin an effort to decrease these numbers. One major step toward this goal is the adoption of renewable, sustainably sourced materials including wood.
According to the Journal of Sustainable Forestry, by simply increasing the use of wood in new construction projects, the industry has the potential to decrease global carbon emissions by up to 31 percent.
Wood presents multiple benefits to the construction industry. First, forests are natural “carbon sinks,” that absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Second, wood harvesting provides great environmental returns to their environment including the promotion of sustainable forest management, a decreased risk of forest fires, and increased forest biomass.
With an estimated $86.6 billion increase in demand for green building materials by 2017, it’s important to state that adopting green building materials and practices is also profitable for builders. From a logistical standpoint it is more profitable for builders to use sustainably sourced woods than tropical hardwoods. For example, popular hardwood Ipe takes 80-100 years to mature compared to sustainable alternatives like Kebony, a modified pine that matures in just 30 years and takes 3 days to modify.
The environmental benefits, profitability and accelerated supply chain associated with wood are all forces leading today’s construction industry to bring wood to the forefront of building and design.