The future of building has arrived and apparently the new, exciting, desirable, sustainable product is wood. Contractors and architects are going back to basics by returning to the renewable, durable, multi-purpose material after years where it was fashionable to design and build with steel and concrete. Nowhere was this message clearer than at this year’s Wood Solutions fair in Washington D.C., which hosted over 350 architects and contractors.
The fair was meant to educate and inform attendees about responsibly using wood for new projects by promoting the concepts such as; sustainable forest management, managing for healthy and controllable forest fires, addressing drought conditions, controlling invasive plant and insect infestations and safeguarding resources in the face of increasing incidences and severity of storms. Lumber promoters maintain that wood buildings store more carbon and reduce energy requirements in comparison to buildings made of steel, aluminum and concrete. WoodWorks, a non-profit organization supported by the U.S. Forest Service, advocates for the use of wood products including cross laminated timber a product with which high-rise buildings are able to be safely constructed. WoodWorks was able to influence and convert over 88 projects already under construction to the use of wood and wood products this year alone, which translates into a $33 million dollar increase in lumber sales equating to approximately 65 million board feet of product.
This increase in the usage of timber benefits the environment as well as the lumber industry, win-win; in the United States the forest products industry directly employs over 1 million people, many in remote, rural areas. Additionally, this industry contributes upwards of $100 billion to the gross domestic product.
The Forest Service authored a study in 2011 entitled; “Science Supporting the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Using Wood and Wood Products in Green Building Construction” in which they reviewed historical data as well as current scientific studies and literature. Their findings indicate that the use of wood building products generates fewer greenhouse gases as compared to using other materials. For the full text of this report visit: http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/products/publications/specific_pub.php?posting_id=19008&header_id=p. Their analyses include; harvesting, processing and use of trees and wood that has been affected or diminished in habitat value due to insect infestations. Management and control of invasive tree pests sometimes calls for the removal of afflicted trees, which could then be treated to kill the infestations and milled for use. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell stated, “Taking a harder look at wood as a green building source could reduce the damages posed by future fires, maintain overall forest health and provide much-needed jobs in local communities.”