Wood: A Natural Choice

Affordable housing across the nation and in parts of Idaho is at a crisis level. Half of U.S. renters are living paycheck to paycheck because they’re spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing.1

Meanwhile, the U.S. Green Building Council says buildings account for 39 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions per year in the United States.

Here in Idaho, we have an opportunity to immediately address the need for affordable housing, with an abundant, renewable, readily-available local building material – Wood.

This week is “National Forest Products Week,” a time to draw awareness to wood as a natural building material that delivers safe, cost-efficient, lasting structures to our communities.

Seattle’s Bullitt Center is a six-story, 52,000-square-foot structure built to last 250 years. Reported as the most energy efficient commercial building in the world, the design team initially expected to use concrete to construct the building. After in-depth comparison of materials, an engineered wood product called mass timber was used to form its core. The team found timber to be the best environmental solution, in large part because of the carbon sequestered in the material itself.2

Wood is strong, safe and meets building codes. The Bullitt Center’s project manager Brian Court said, “I think one of the things we learned with the Bullitt Center is that wood has the structural capability to do way more than we’re letting it do right now.”

Today’s building codes are developed by experts – code officials, fire officials, architects and engineers – through a rigorous three-year process to ensure the safety of all building materials. Building codes recognize the latest advances in technology and allow wood to be used in a range of low- to mid-rise residential and non-residential buildings.

Wood often costs less. Using wood in construction projects is often less expensive than alternatives. The framer who built the Stella Apartments in California said the crew saved one to two months of construction time and a “few hundred thousand dollars” by using wood materials.3

Wood is better for the environment. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a scientific evaluation of the overall impacts of building materials, comprehensively measuring the energy and resources consumed to create the material, as well as the lifetime emissions to the air, water and land.

Compared to other building materials, wood wins big. The benefits of wood products, quantified in LCAs, can be seen in third-party verified Environmental Product Declarations.4

Besides being renewable, wood products are the only building material that stores carbon and keeps it out of the atmosphere indefinitely. And using wood avoids the greenhouse gases emitted during the manufacturing of fossil fuel-intensive materials.

With all of its benefits, consumers, architects and America should consider wood the natural choice when planning construction projects – certainly during National Forest Products Week, and every week of the year.

Heather Stegner is a native Idahoan and the Vice President of Communications for the American Wood Council (AWC). AWC is the voice of North American wood products manufacturing, representing 86 percent of the structural wood products industry.

1 America’s Rental Housing Report 2017

3 WoodWorks. Wood Rises to the Occasion. 2013.

4 Underwriters Laboratories Environment. https://spot.ul.com/.