Evaluating the Carbon Footprint of Wood Buildings

Reducing greenhouse gases with high-performance structures
[ Page 1 of 5 ]       
Sponsored by reThink Wood

Learning Objectives:

  1. Examine the natural cycle of carbon absorption and storage, and the role of forests and wood products in mitigating carbon emissions.
  2. Discuss the role of wood products sourced from sustainably managed forests in the design of sustainable, environmentally positive buildings.
  3. Explain the low embodied energy of wood products, and how this translates into avoided carbon emissions throughout their life cycles.
  4. Compare the carbon benefits of example buildings based on the results of two calculators.

Credits:

1 AIA LU/HSW
1 GBCI CE Hour
0.1 IACET CEU*
This test is no longer available for credit

Worldwide, there has been increasing focus on the carbon footprint of buildings and recognition that design professionals are uniquely positioned to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by creating high-performance structures.

According to Architecture 2030, which was established more than a decade ago in response to the climate change crisis, buildings are “the problem.” The building sector consumes nearly half of all energy produced in the United States, 75 percent of the electricity produced is used to operate buildings, and, in 2010, the building sector was responsible for nearly half of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. However, buildings also offer a solution. By 2035, approximately 75 percent of the nation's building stock will be either new or renovated (from a 2010 baseline). This transformation offers a significant opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment.

Today, energy efficiency—once the new frontier for environmentally conscious designers—is a commonplace objective and net zero energy is well within reach. As a result, greater attention is now being focused on the materials used to construct buildings—and the benefits, carbon and otherwise, of using wood from sustainably managed forests instead of products that are fossil fuel-intensive.

Extensive research, some of it developed in countries where ambitious government policies promoting carbon efficiency are being implemented, and sophisticated new calculation tools are making it possible for architects to evaluate and compare the impacts of different materials on the carbon footprint of buildings. Similarly, there is an increasing number of life cycle assessment (LCA) tools that allow designers to evaluate and compare buildings based on a range of indicators such as air pollution, water pollution, and waste.

This course examines the environmental impacts of wood products—from the global scale of the world's forests to the individual scale of efficient, adaptable, and innovative buildings—using real-world examples from two U.S. carbon calculators as well as the latest research on LCA.

Architecture 2030 objectives are making many designers pay greater attention to the materials used to construct buildings and the benefits, carbon and otherwise, of using wood from sustainably managed forests instead of products that are fossil fuel-intensive.

Architecture 2030 objectives are making many designers pay greater attention to the materials used to construct buildings and the benefits, carbon and otherwise, of using wood from sustainably managed forests instead of products that are fossil fuel-intensive.

Evaluating the Carbon Footprint of Wood Buildings

Photo by Lawrence Anderson, www.lawrenceanderson.net

 

[ Page 1 of 5 ]       
Originally published in Architectural Record

Notice

Academies