Lumber is one of the most regenerative building materials
According to a 2015 study by Architecture and Design published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry, “The world’s forests contain more than 400 billion cubic yards of wood, but relatively little of that is turned into wooden building materials.” That means that, globally, wood is plentiful while the world frequently turns to exhaustive resources such as concrete, steel, aluminum, and brick. In fact, the same study shines a light on the fact that 16% of all the fossil fuel consumed every year is used to turn raw materials into construction products like concrete and steel.
We can do better, and when it comes to sustainable, regenerative building materials, wood does it better than any other building material. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, wood tops the list as our most valuable regenerative building resource because:
- Wood lets us reduce, reuse, and recycle. With innovative design, we can optimize the materials we use to reduce the amount of waste we produce per job site. Excess wood can then be taken to recovery centers for recycling, where another builder can secure wood for his or her next project…all without tapping our forestlands for materials.
- It’s regenerative. Unlike many building materials (steel, for instance), wood does not deplete the earth of its natural resources. Because it’s a resource that more or less stands on its own, it can be grown and harvested responsibly over and over again, as it has been here in North America for over 60 years.
- We have more of it than we think. Since the 1940s, forest growth in the United States has continually exceeded harvest, which means we use much less wood than we think we do. And of the 750 million acres of forestland in the United States, about 20% of it is protected by conservation efforts. So, all in all, we’re in very good shape to continue using wood as our main building material.
Given its abundance, its ability to naturally regenerate, and the emergence of new technologies that are transforming wood into a highly fortified, long-lasting building element that requires limited energy to produce, lumber is quickly becoming an obvious answer to the renewable building materials question: is this good for the planet? It is.