Energy Efficient Wood Buildings

Strategies for achieving energy objectives with wood-frame structures
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Sponsored by reThink Wood
This test is no longer available for credit


While wood has low thermal conductivity, other factors—such as the use of high-efficiency windows and doors, high levels of insulation, and air sealing—have a greater influence on a building envelope’s energy efficiency than choice of structural material. In specifying wood, the more relevant point for many designers is that wood building systems lend themselves to structures that are energy efficient, with less impact on the environment in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution, and carbon footprint than other major building materials.6

Additional Resources

This continuing education course draws from the FPInnovations Guide for Designing Energy-Efficient Building Enclosures for Wood-Frame Multi-Unit Residential Buildings in Marine to Cold Climates in North America. These areas tend to have the greatest need for guidance in order to meet increasingly stringent energy code requirements. While much of the information is relevant in other climate zones, FPInnovations is developing similar guides for the hot-dry/hot-humid and arctic climates.

The following resources are also available to assist designers with the energy-efficient design of wood buildings:

  • Design for Code Acceptance 7: Meeting Residential Energy Requirements with Wood-Frame Construction, 2014, American Wood Council
  • Thermal Performance of Light-Frame Assemblies, Canadian Wood Council
  • Energy and the Environment in Residential Construction, Canadian Wood Council
  • U.S. CLT Handbook, FPInnovations, 2013

Additional information on the design of mid-rise wood buildings is available from the U.S. WoodWorks program ( and American Wood Council (


  1. Guide for Designing Energy-Efficient Building Enclosures for Wood-Frame Multi-Unit Residential Buildings in Marine to Cold Climates in North America, 2013, FPInnovations
  2. Need for an embodied energy measurement protocol for buildings: A review paper, Manish K. Dixit, Jose L. Fernández-Solís, Sarel Lavy, Charles H. Culp College of Architecture, Texas A&M University
  3. Ibid, Endnote 1
  4. USDA Forest Products Lab Wood Handbook, Chapter 4
  5. Research Report 0903, Straube. J., J. Smegal, 2009,
  6. Werner, F. and Richter, K. 2007. Wooden building products in comparative LCA: A literature review. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment; Life Cycle Environmental Performance of Renewable Building Materials in the Context of Residential Construction – Phase I, 2005 and Phase II, 2010, Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials

reThink Wood

reThink Wood
The reThink Wood initiative is a coalition of interests representing North America’s wood products industry and related stakeholders. The coalition shares a passion for wood products and the forests they come from. Innovative new technologies and building systems have enabled longer wood spans, taller walls and higher buildings, and continue to expand the possibilities for wood use in construction.


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Originally published in Engineering News-Record.