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From Forest to Frame: The Environmental Advantages of Building with Timber

From Forest to Frame: The Environmental Advantages of Building with Timber

As trees grow, they diligently work to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — and that work doesn’t stop once they’re harvested, processed, and used for construction. Timber continues to store the greenhouse gas in its fibers when it’s used as part of a structure. Remarkably, one cubic meter of timber can store up to one metric ton of CO2.

But that’s only one of several impactful environmental advantages that timber has over other construction materials. When compared to steel and concrete, timber provides impressive sustainability benefits that the building industry now recognizes as powerful reasons for its increased use. We’ve collected five of those advantages here:

  1. Carbon Sequestration: The carbon dioxide that trees trap from the atmosphere is refunded with oxygen from the process of photosynthesis. Timber continues to store this carbon throughout the span of its use as a building material, effectively acting as a carbon sink.
  2. Energy Efficiency in Production: Compared to cement and steel, timber’s manufacturing process emits fewer carbon emissions — about 1/3 of the emissions produced by making cement and 1/20 of those produced in steel manufacturing.
  3. Reduced Construction Waste: Advanced milling and processing technologies like off-site CTC machines minimize waste, eliminating the dross produced by on-site cutting. The small amount of lumber waste that is produced can then be repurposed in cross-laminated timber and glued laminated timber products.
  4. End-of-Life Recycling & Reuse: Heavy timber can be recycled or repurposed at the end of its life cycle, thereby reducing waste that might otherwise go to a landfill. To further preserve resources, reclaimed timber can be used in new construction. Using timber from old barns and buildings gives new structures a genuine, rustic feel that is otherwise only earned over many, many years.
  5. Aesthetic & Psychological Benefits: Timber buildings bring us closer to nature, with the various hues of wood, the grain, and the overall aesthetic surrounding us with the familiar feel of the natural world. This is why timber buildings are often perceived as warmer and more inviting, promoting a sense of well-being for their occupants. This feeling, known as biophilia, improves mental health and productivity, making timber a popular choice for educational facilities, hospitality centers, offices, and shared living spaces.

By viewing its life cycle from a holistic perspective, we see the larger picture of how timber interacts with the environment from forest to frame. Using renewable natural resources in construction not only provides high-quality building materials, it overcomes the harmful shortfalls that steel and concrete introduce into the world.

To learn more about how timber construction can benefit your next project — and lessen its impact on the environment — contact the team at Mid-Atlantic Timberframes.

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