Is lumber a green building material?

Photo courtesy of chiefdm5 at
The first choices made during a project are often critical choices – they set the tone for everything that follows. During construction projects, that goes doubly true. It’s important to have a complete vision of the finished goal before the first brick is laid.

For example, it can be time consuming and expensive to add another bathroom after concrete is poured. Using low-VOC paint doesn’t do much good if it’s the second coat of paint on a wall. And putting in a skylight is easiest before roof tiles are applied.

Many early construction choices will be hidden from sight – under the carpet or inside the walls. Simply because these choices are covered up doesn’t make them any less important. A commonly overlooked factor is the importance of framing material. This press release (from a lumber company with a clear agenda) makes the case for wood framing as a greener option than steel.

As trees grow, they convert CO2 to carbon, which remains stored in the wood long after the tree is harvested. The benefits are substantial: the wood framing in a typical suburban home stores a volume of CO2 equal to the emissions from a small car over seven years.

That makes sense to me, but it’s important to make sure that the lumber used comes from a well managed forest or other sustainable source (ie; recycled building material, underwater forests, etc). There are sustainable certifications available for virtually all wood products – check with the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance for more information.

Photo courtesy of benb787 at
For related information about the unseen benefits of insulation, check out our post about how Thermal Imaging technology can save energy by spotting leaks.