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Surprising Science

A Renaissance for Wood?

A new study in the journal Carbon Management says architects should consider more wooden structures to reduce carbon emissions and create valuable carbon storehouses. 

What’s the Latest Development?

If architects designed more buildings from wood, less carbon would be emitted during the construction process and wooden buildings would store excess carbon currently hanging in the atmosphere. University of Washington professor Bruce Lippke, author of new paper published in the journal Carbon Management, says: “Every time you see a wood building, it’s a storehouse of carbon from the forest. When you see steel or concrete, you’re seeing the emissions of carbon dioxide that had to go into the atmosphere for those structures to go up.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Would a new generation of wooden buildings require forests to be cleared, forests which are more valuable as carbon storehouses than in their processes form as wooden beams? No, says Lippke: “While the carbon in the wood stored in forests is substantial, like any garden, forests have limited capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they age. … However, like harvesting a garden sustainably, we can use the wood grown in our forests for products and biofuels to displace the use of fossil-intensive products and fuels like steel, concrete, coal and oil.”


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