New study quantifies timbers carbon footprint

TRADA s latest Construction Briefing Timber carbon footprints is based on a study carried out to meet demand from engineers and design professionals for figures which quantify timbers carbon footprint for comparison with other materials.

Widespread concern about global warming and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has led to growing interest in understanding and measuring the level of emissions associated with a wide range of human activities. One approach has been the development of a product carbon footprint, which attempts to assess emissions associated with each stage of a product during its life cycle.

The timber industry has long been confident that, in terms of its carbon footprint, timbers environmental credentials are sound, but has so far lacked a quantifiable means of demonstrating this. Measuring CO2 emissions is not like using a ruler or a set of scales, however. It is more like profit and loss accounting, weighing up what is paid in against what is taken out. Assessing the carbon footprint of any material is therefore complex. The Construction Briefing applies calculations to several different scenarios covering several types of timber used commercially in the UK. The aim is to:

provide data for design professionals consider different end of life options (eg fuel, waste etc)

account for the carbon sequestration of timber in different ways (from excluding it to including it fully).

For each timber type, the study assumes that primary processing has been undertaken at point of harvesting and that the timber has been transported to central England for manufacture, then taken a further 200 km for delivery to site.

The scenarios investigated are:

Sitka spruce, Scotland, preservative treated - cladding

Redwood, Sweden, hydro power - timber frame

English oak, central England - green oak timber frame

Iroko, Cameroun, decking.

The results are laid out in easy to follow tables and graphs in the Construction Briefing

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