Wood is greenest building material

By Union Democrat staff October 28, 2011 03:44 am

    The U.S. Forest Service is pushing for builders to use more timber products in construction projects after a new report found that using wood is environmentally friendly and has several economic benefits.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture-backed report found that timber harvesting and lumber production can have several job-creating and ecological benefits.
    The study analyzed homes in the Minneapolis and Atlanta areas and found that wood products had lower environmental emissions over the life of the building materials compared to steel framing or concrete. It also found that houses built of wood required 15 percent less energy to manufacture.
       The production of solid wood products accounted for more than 350,000 direct jobs and $12 billion in payroll in 2009, according to the report. Those statistics were down substantially from 2008, when the wood production accounted for more than 460,000 jobs. The report said that existing use of forest products supports more than 1 million jobs and contributes more than $100 billion to the national GDP.
    “Many of these jobs and payroll are especially important in the economic development of rural forested areas,” the report stated.
    The report also said that selling small diameter trees or those that have been killed by bugs and disease can help support forest conservation and ecological restoration programs. It said wood could be used in a wide variety of applications outside of residential homes.
    The report said that wood products can substitute for more fossil fuel-intensive alternatives to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers found that replacing synthetic materials with cedar siding, wood windows and cellulose insulation could result in the storage of carbon, a major greenhouse gas.
    “Our country has the resources, the work force, and the innovative spirit to reintroduce wood products into all aspects of the next generation of buildings,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “As we move forward with restoring America’s forests, we are getting smarter and more efficient in how we use wood products as both an energy and green building source. Our progress in this area will also help maintain rural jobs.”
    To view the full report, visit www.fs.fed.us/news/2011/releases/09/green-building-report.pdf