Why timber buildings may be key in limiting climate change.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report makes for grim reading. It finds that climate change is here, it is accelerating and left unchecked the implications for humanity will be serious. In the fight to curtail the worst impacts of rising temperatures, real estate has a critical role to play given its significant contribution towards greenhouse gas emissions.
The operation of buildings is important, but it is real estate construction and demolition which is most damaging from an environmental perspective. Indeed, if concrete were a country it would account for 8% of annual global emissions, making it the world’s third largest carbon emitter after China and the USA according to Chatham House think tank.
With population growth, demographic change, building redundancy and urbanisation driving demand for new sustainable and efficient buildings, it is unrealistic to stop new construction entirely. A more pragmatic approach is needed which enables construction and reduces the impact of end-of-life demolition in a way which also helps the planet. One potential solution which could achieve this is the use of timber buildings.
Carbon negative potential
On the face of it, cutting down trees to help alleviate climate change may seem counter-intuitive, but the logic is sound. Trees absorb carbon as they grow and this is permanently captured when timber is used to construct new buildings. Sourcing trees from sustainably managed woodland means that new fast-growing trees are cultivated to replace those chopped down, thereby reducing carbon from the atmosphere even further. Not only does this negate the need to use polluting concrete, but it also sucks out additional carbon from the atmosphere; done correctly it is carbon negative.