Characterizing the Importance of Carbon Stored in Wood Products

Bruce Lippke, Jim Wilson, Jamie Meil, Adam Taylor

Abstract


Carbon emissions and stores are increasingly important as solutions are sought to address climate change. Focusing on some forest-related carbon pools but omitting product carbon frequently results in invalid conclusions. This study examined carbon emissions and stores in the life cycle of wood products in comparison with alternative materials. Emissions were established from a sustainably managed, carbon-neutral forest through processing to wood product use in residential structures and their eventual disposal. A life-cycle inventory was developed to establish the quantity of emissions from each stage of processing, and a life-cycle assessment of a representative residential building was made of its impact on global warming potential. The carbon stored in wood products as an offset to emissions was shown to be significant. Comparison of various building materials—wood, steel, and concrete—showed that wood was more environmentally friendly because of reduced carbon emissions because of fossil fuel combustion, carbon stored in products, permanent avoidance of emissions from fossil fuel-intensive products, and use of a sustainable and renewable resource.

Keywords


Carbon emissions;carbon storage;global warming;wood products;forests;life-cycle inventory and assessment (LCI/LCA)

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