How Sustainable Is Wood?

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Webinar On-Demand
Sponsored by Think Wood
Presented by Andrew Waugh, John Klein, Stephanie Carlisle, and Heather Holdridge. Moderated by Joann Gonchar, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C

Learning Objectives:

  1. Name common mass timber components, describe how they are fabricated, and identify their typical applications.
  2. Explain some of the factors that affect a timber structure’s ability to store carbon.
  3. Describe what a life cycle assessment (LCA) is and list which environmental impacts it quantifies.
  4. Describe tools that architects and other project team members can use to conduct an LCA and calculate embodied carbon.


AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA.
This course can be self-reported to the NSAA
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia
This test is no longer available for credit

Mass timber is an increasingly popular building material not only for its strength, stability, and aesthetic appeal, but because of its ability to store carbon. But just how much of that greenhouse gas is sequestered in wood is a complex question that depends on a variety of factors, beginning with the management of forests from which the timber is harvested. Join RECORD to hear from designers recognized for their expertise in timber construction and learn about their design and decision-making processes and gain a perspective on tools and strategies for quantifying the environmental impact of material choices.

How Sustainable Is Wood


Andrew Waugh is founding director of the British firm Waugh Thistleton Architects. The core ethos of the practice is to design and construct sustainable, beautiful buildings. Waugh Thistleton work to find the most efficient, aesthetic and ambitious architectural solutions that require the least resources.Past built projects include Murray Grove; the World’s first all timber residential tower. Andrew’s passion for architecture extends beyond the physical practice to a wide-ranging research in sustainable construction - for which he won the RIBA president’s medal in 2010 and upon which he continues to write, teach and lecture at every opportunity. Andrew is an internationally sought-after speaker, writes for numerous industry publications and teaches at the World’s best architecture schools. He is also an active member of various organisations committed to a sustainable world. Andrew is a visiting Professor of Architecture at the University of Arkansas.


John Klein is the CEO of Generate Technologies: a Boston-based, MIT-spin off company with the mission to digitize one of the world’s largest and least digital industries: the 12-trillion-dollar Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) sectors. Generate is developing a technology platform for architects, to transform the way buildings are designed and built. Generate’s technology is designed to tackle the global climate and housing crises, by accelerating the deployment of cost-effective, sustainable building materials and systems, like mass timber.

Prior to Generate, Klein was a Principal Investigator at MIT, where he led cross-disciplinary teams to develop advanced design, material and manufacturing technologies. While at MIT, Klein advanced into construction Boston’s first mass timber project, using one of Generate’s systems. It will meet Passive House Standards by generating more electricity than it consumes, and will function as a carbon sink by reducing both operational and embodied emissions. It will be one of the most sustainable buildings in the US, when complete.

Prior to MIT, Klein worked for Frank Gehry, Greg Lynn, Mark Burry and Zaha Hadid for eight years, leading the design and delivery of over 10,000,000 sf of construction. As Senior Architect, he implemented advanced technologies to streamline the design and construction of the IT Tech Park in Chennai, India, the Glasgow Transportation Museum, and The Seoul World Design Park. In Beijing, Klein oversaw the construction of the Wangjing Soho Skyscrapers—the largest Zaha Hadid project to date completed in record speed due to the integration of computational tools that linked design to supply chain. Klein is a US Registered Architect, and holds a professional Bachelor’s of Architecture from SCI-Arc and a Master’s of Science from the MIT Media Lab.


Stephanie Carlisle is a Senior Researcher at the Carbon Leadership Forum where she leads collaborative development of open-access LCA data, tools, and methods to support the building sector in radically decarbonizing construction. Her work brings together diverse stakeholders from industry, land management, manufacturing, labor, policy and design to find new approaches to climate justice. Prior to joining the CLF, she was a Principal at KieranTimberlake where she helped develop Tally, a whole building LCA tool and worked to implement strategies that address climate and health impacts of building materials. She is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Scenario Journal, and a lecturer at the Weitzman Schools of Design at the University of Pennsylvania where she teaches courses in life cycle assessment, building materials, and urban ecology. She currently serves on the Steering Committee for US Architects Declare a Climate, Justice, and Biodiversity Emergency, a climate action group pushing for radical change in architectural practice and education.


Heather Holdridge, LEED Fellow, EIT, Assoc. AIA, is the Sustainability Director at Lake|Flato Architects, a firm that has gained national recognition for architecture that responds to its particular place while seamlessly integrating with the natural environment. Leveraging her background in mechanical engineering, Heather directs all Lake|Flato project teams in establishing sustainability goals. She devises strategies and establishes methods and systems to realize those goals under programs such as LEED, the 2030 Challenge, and the Living Building Challenge. Heather works closely with design teams to evaluate appropriate passive systems and performs energy modeling throughout the design process. Heather’s projects have included the Engineered BioSystems Building at Georgia Tech; the Austin Central Library; and Arizona State University Student Health Services Building. She received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Business Administration from The University of Texas at San Antonio.


Joann Gonchar, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, is a Senior Editor at Architectural Record. She joined the magazine in 2006, after eight years at its sister publication Engineering News-Record. She was also a key member of the founding editorial team for the sustainable design publication, GreenSource. Before starting her career as a journalist, Joann worked for several U.S. architects and spent three years in Kobe, Japan, with the firm Team Zoo, Atelier Iruka. She earned a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University. She is licensed to practice architecture in New York State.


Think Wood Think Wood provides commercial, multifamily and single-family home design and build resources to architects, developers, and contractors, including education, research, design tools, and innovative project profiles.


Originally published in August 2021