A Guide to Renewable Timber in Construction
It would be difficult to find a more environmentally friendly building material than timber. Not only is it naturally renewable and versatile, as well as being lightweight and beautiful, but it has excellent load bearing and thermal properties. If managed properly, timber is a resource that will never run out.
Benefits of using timber in a sustainable manner
Here are a few facts regarding the benefits of using timber in a sustainable way.
- Every cubic metre of timber absorbs 1 tonne of CO2
- The energy from timber is carbon neutral as only the CO2 absorbed is returned back to the atmosphere
- Because the by product can be used for generating energy (such as in bio-mass plants) there is very little waste from the manufacturing process
- When a program of re-planting is in place the resource becomes self- sustaining and has a positive effect on the environment
- Timber is also recyclable for use in construction and reclamation yards are more popular than ever
Sustainable timber in construction
With all of that said, the system of using sustainable timber in construction still has a long way to go and companies selling or using timber are sometimes dragged kicking and screaming into the initiatives put into place to improve the situation. One of the most popular schemes is that run by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), as it is also favoured by organizations such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, and you will often see their logo in places that sell timber. Construction companies using the scheme will only take delivery of timber loads certified by the FSC.
Prevalence of timber constructed buildings
It is already the case that 90% of all low-rise buildings in Canada and the USA are of timber frame construction, and there has been a long tradition of timber houses in Scandinavian countries which have evolved into highly efficient prefabricated designs, and they are also becoming increasingly popular in other European countries, including the UK. The drive toward a more sustainable use of timber in construction is also being backed up by EU legislation which stipulates that member states should be committed to sustainable forestry management.
Innovations in the timber industry
Each week brings new innovations connected to the use of timber in construction which are often tied in with research into greater insulation in a property to reduce the carbon footprint even more. One such project is the use of straw bales in construction which are placed around a timber frame, and as the bales are also carbon neutral, they will continue to absorb CO2 throughout their lifespan. Once constructed, the straw bales are lime rendered, which is another product that has excellent eco credentials.
It has even been suggested that the straw bales may even have a negative carbon footprint. This EU funded project is looking at the benefits of building a straw bale house that will be capable of lasting for at least a hundred years so that a guarantee can be provided for mortgage lenders and insurers, and will allow the building to receive certification in the same way as a traditional building.
So whether you are building your dream home or you are just making some shelves as a project, it is worth checking the source of the timber you are using as every little bit helps.