"We are faced with the two major issues in our time, man-made climate change and a soaring world population. To construct adequate housing for future generations we must reinvent construction so that we can fulfill this need with the minimum effect on our environment." ANDREW WAUGH -PRINCIPAL, WAUGH THISTLETON ARCHITECTURE
Timber can help solve our global problems.  As timber grows it soaks up carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.  This is surely what we have been looking for.

Half the world’s seven billion people are in urban areas today, and futurists predict that by 2050, 75% of the people on earth will live and work in cities. The challenge is to find quality, affordable, and environmentally friendly housing for these billions of city dwellers. The answer may well be found in new architectural and engineering technologies that favor wood as the primary building material.

There are many sound reasons to turn to wood as the preferred building material of the 21st Century.


Wood is a renewable and sustainable resource that costs less to produce than steel and concrete, which have been the primary building materials of the last 125 years.


Wood is environmentally responsible because it stores carbon, whereas the production of man-made materials requires huge amounts of fossil fuels and harmful emissions.

wood = steel

Pound-for-pound, wood is as strong as steel and extremely durable.


And as you’ll discover below, exciting new technologies are enabling the construction of tall, modern wood buildings that are safer and cheaper to build.


The building sector consumes
1/2 of the energy produced
and is responsible for
1/2of the CO2 emissions in the U.S.

It’s surprising but true. The transportation industry is responsible for 28% of the country’s energy consumption, but the nation’s construction and building industry accounts for 48% of all the energy produced, as well as 45% of the greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere.

Much of this results from the fossil fuel energy required to forge steel and produce concrete. (Manufacturing a ton of concrete releases a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.) Wood building materials on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive to grow, manufacture and replenish because wood is natural, renewable and sustainably harvested from the nation’s working forests. Moreover, contrary to most manufacturing processes, forests produce oxygen, trees sequester carbon dioxide from the environment and store carbon in harvested wood products.

Buildings Consume Nearly Half of all the Energy Produced in the United States

The building sector consumes nearly half of all the energy produced in the United States — 48%, almost as much energy consumed by both the transportation and industry sectors combined.[1]  The Energy Information Administration estimates that the building sector’s energy consumption will grow faster than that of transportation and industry.

To create a U.S. Building Sector, the residential buildings (operations) sector, commercial buildings (operations) sector, and industrial buildings (operations and materials embodied energy estimates) were combined.[2] 

Buildings are Responsible for Nearly Half of all US CO2 Emissions

img16Policymakers have focused on transportation emissions as a major source of greenhouse gasses, and rightly so.  But surprisingly, the building sector was responsible for nearly half — 45% of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2010. By comparison, transportation accounted for 34% of CO2 emissions and industry 21%.  Wood is an effective way to slow this trend by reducing the embodied energy in building materials. Grown by the sun and nature, wood has a lower carbon footprint than other building materials such as concrete and steel.

The emergence of technologically advanced, engineered wood provides a strong, safe, affordable building product that is more sustainable, less energy intensive, and friendlier to the environment than those currently used in most buildings.

“How we address climate change in buildings is a cornerstone in how the world will tackle the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”MICHAEL GREENMICHAEL GREENCASE FOR TALL WOOD BUILDINGS

Advances in Wood Technology–Heavy Timber or Mass Timber Construction

in wood technology makes
tall wood buildings possible

Timber is an attractive material for green building construction as it has a lower carbon footprint, uses less energy and water and is 100% renewable from sustainably managed forests.  This sets timber apart from other building materials, such as concrete and steel.  While all materials are important to the construction of buildings, innovation and advances in wood technology are making it possible to build tall wood buildings using solid Mass Timber Construction.

Engineered wood products, such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Glued Laminated Timber (Glulam), and Structural Composite Lumber (SCL) such as Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) and Parallel Strand Lumber (PSL) provides consistent quality and strength, changing the way buildings perform structurally, in earthquakes, and providing a predictable level of fire resistance. Because the size of CLT panels can be up to 19½ inches thick, 18 feet wide, and 98 feet long in North America, they are used for structural systems such as walls, floors and roofs.  CLT is lightweight yet very strong, and because it is prefabricated, makes it fast and easy to install, generating almost no waste.  It also provides good thermal insulation, good sound insulation and good performance under fire.  Wood products tend to have lower environmental impacts than concrete or steel when considering the full life cycle impacts of these building products.

Cross laminated timber and other mass timber products offer a potentially powerful way to strengthen rural economies, manage forests to reduce wildfire intensity and improve habitat, and sequester carbon in energy efficient buildings in our communities.GENE DUVERNOYGENE DUVERNOYPRESIDENT

The Building Community is Re-Thinking Wood

The building community is
Re-thinking WOOD

The use of wood from sustainable forestry in place of emission-intensive materials such as concrete, steel, or aluminum can reduce greenhouse gas emissionsThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

New advances in engineered wood are allowing the construction of tall, safe, and more economical wood buildings. Pioneering architects the world over are finding new ways to design and construct cost-efficient residences and commercial and high rises with wood as the core material.

Building with advanced wood products is more fire-safe. Tall wood buildings are constructed in a way that doesn’t connect floors and walls, so fire does not travel rapidly. Most important, the size and strength of mass timber panels (CLT, LVL, LSL) char and burn in a fire, but don’t buckle even in intense heat.


Engineered wood is more earthquake stable. Wood’s flexibility allows modern wood buildings to sway in an earthquake rather than shatter—with less resultant damage.  The world’s largest earthquake shake table in Kobe, Japan tested a seven-story wood-framed condominium tower in a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and it escaped with barely a scratch.  Proportional to the structure’s weight, wood is substantially lighter than steel or concrete and meets or exceeds the most demanding earthquake design requirements.

It’s Time to Re-Evaluate Building Codes

Mass timber panels
maintain its strength during a fire

unlike other building materials

Building ordinances, particularly in the U.S. are lagging behind the technology of modern wood construction. Outmoded concerns about fire safety and the stability of tall buildings limit many wood buildings to four stories.

But engineered wood has changed the game dramatically. Many nations in Europe and Asia have embraced the promise of tall, green buildings designed and constructed by visionary architects using state-of-the-art wood products.  Mass timber panels, such as Cross Laminated Timber maintains its strength during a fire, unlike other building materials.  Like heavy timber, they char at a rate that is slow and predictable, maintaining their strength and giving occupants more time to leave the building.   While fire performance may appear to be a hurdle, research indicates that the panels develop a protective char layer and maintain their structural integrity if properly designed.

The time has come for “building code evolution” for our modern cities and for the health of the planet.

The Natural, Human Way to Build

Wood is the natural,
human way,
to build

Ballard Library, Seattle, WashingtonThere’s one more important aspect to wood construction. Along with all the environmental and economic benefits of wood, there is a very human advantage. Unlike concrete and steel, wood is a natural, living material. It springs from the earth and it is eternally replenishable. It was mankind’s first building material and we feel an emotional and physical connection to its aesthetics and strength. From its beautiful grain and texture, to its non-polluting, carbon-storing benefits, something in our soul tells us that wood is good.  The Ballard Library is a great example of celebrating wood construction, exemplifying the Pacific Northwest’s love for the natural environment.