Wood products are better at dampening climate change because their manufacture causes fewer emissions. In addition to this, wood binds carbon, which can be stored in the structures of buildings for up to hundreds of years. When buildings are dismantled, wood-based construction waste can be utilised in energy production, thus enabling it to reduce fossil fuel consumption.
The forest industry has been presenting calculations, which demonstrate the environment-friendliness of wood construction, for quite some time. Now these calculations have received scientific confirmation.
“The calculations performed by the Finnish Environment Institute and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland unambiguously demonstrate that wood use is environment-friendly,” Antro Säilä, Director of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s Business Environment and Innovation unit, points out.
Lifespan thinking supports optimal selection of construction materials
The Finnish Environment Institute’s report underlines the importance of lifespan thinking in the selection of building materials. As energy production will in future rely increasingly on renewable energy sources, the materials used to manufacture various building materials and structures should be the focus of more and more attention. The amount of energy consumed during the life of buildings is reducing, as are the emissions of energy production – this means that the choice of construction material and its method of manufacture is no longer a marginal issue when the full lifespan of a building is taken into consideration.
The report examines special questions associated with lifespan calculations of the environmental impact of construction materials, such as the binding of carbon into wood structures, metal recycling and materials’ utilisation after buildings are decommissioned. The life of a structure should always be a key consideration when its environmental impact is considered.
Enhancing the awareness and expertise of the building industry, developers and designers in particular, is significant for the effort to reduce the environmental impact of construction. Thinking should shift from consideration of the impacts of the manufacture of construction materials to calculations covering the building’s entire lifespan. This has already happened to some extent.
A shared view on how environmental impact evaluation methods should be developed has already been established, but the development effort is still incomplete. The methods of evaluating the environmental impacts of construction will improve in the future. Today’s calculation guidelines and practices will likely be replaced with climatic effect methods that incorporate the latest scientific views of carbon binding and the climate effects of greenhouse gas emissions, which occur at different times, into evaluations of overall climate effects.
Designers in particular need better tools for evaluating environmental effects. It is of the utmost significance that climate-impact assessments are performed at the time of the planning process, and not after the building has been completed. New design methods, which are based on product and building information models, facilitate such an approach.
Antro Säilä, Director, Business Environment and Innovation, tel. +358 40 589 1891
Mikko Viljakainen, Manager, Wood Construction, +358 40 526 6413