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Using more wood for construction can slash global reliance on fossil fuels
Date:3/31/2014

A Yale University-led study has found that using more wood and less steel and concrete in building and bridge construction would substantially reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

Despite an established forest conservation theory holding that tree harvesting should be strictly minimized to prevent the loss of biodiversity and to maintain carbon storage capacity, the new study shows that sustainable management of wood resources can achieve both goals while also reducing fossil fuel burning.

The results were published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

In the comprehensive study, scientists from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the University of Washington's College of the Environment evaluated a range of scenarios, including leaving forests untouched, burning wood for energy, and using various solid wood products for construction.

The researchers calculated that the amount of wood harvested globally each year (3.4 billion cubic meters) is equivalent to only about 20 percent of annual wood growth (17 billion cubic meters), and much of that harvest is burned inefficiently for cooking. They found that increasing the wood harvest to the equivalent of 34 percent or more of annual wood growth would have profound and positive effects:

  • Between 14 and 31 percent of global CO2 emissions could be avoided by preventing emissions related to steel and concrete; by storing CO2 in the cellulose and lignin of wood products; and other factors.

  • About 12 to 19 percent of annual global fossil fuel consumption would be saved including savings achieved because scrap wood and unsellable materials could be burned for energy, replacing fossil fuel consumption.

Wood-based construction consumes much less energy than concrete or steel construction. For example, manufacturing a wood floor beam requires 80 megajoules (mj) of energy per squ
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Contact: Kevin Dennehy
kevin.dennehy@yale.edu
203-436-4842
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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