LCA highlights timber's sustainability

5 May 2014

Wood for Good's LCA database shows timber's potential to be the primary material for sustainable manufacture and construction, says David Hopkins, Wood for Good's campaign director

The life cycle assessment (LCA) database launched by Wood for Good last month is a major step forward for the industry. As the largest, free to use, LCA database of any building materials sector, it shows the potential the industry now has to be the primary material for truly sustainable manufacture and construction.

All the timber products studied have been shown to be carbon negative at point of delivery. That is, more CO2 has been absorbed and stored in the wood during the growth of the tree than is emitted through energy use in harvesting, processing, manufacture and transportation for any product.

This should not be underestimated. It shows how timber products can help lower the environmental impact of buildings. To put this into a global perspective, in the same week we launched the LCA database an academic study from scientists at Yale and the University of Washington put out results showing that an increased use of timber could avoid 14-31% of the world's CO2 emissions.

On a UK level, repeated studies have shown that an increased - and easily achievable - use of timber can meet the majority of the emissions reduction target for the homes and communities sector (the built environment), making the case for timber a no-brainer.

Our Wood First campaign was based on this principle. After the relative success of that campaign, increasing numbers of planning authorities are understanding the carbon reduction and storage arguments and permitting buildings on that basis. Sir Alec Reed Academy in West London, saved £150k in capital costs alone by proving the fabric of the building saved more carbon than onsite renewable.

We have now taken that argument to parliament with a roundtable debate and will be holding further debates and presentations at local level around the UK. This LCA project was only possible through the entire supply chain pulling together in support. Wood for Good is the only industry vehicle that works across the entire supply chain and which can present the industry in its entirety. We need your support to continue doing this.