How Sustainable is Wood?

Why wood is a good choice and how to make that choice

Wood can be very environmentally-friendly. It’s biodegradable, entirely natural and completely renewable. Compared with most building materials it is sustainable to a much greater extent. Steel, aluminium and other metals require extensive energy to produce.

Wood Certification

Of course, wood needs to come from trees and forests which are managed well and it can be difficult to be certain about which wood comes from certified forests. Different countries have different bodies regulating forest protection and management. In the US there are organizations like FSC, ATFS and PEFC which certify wood products, while in recent years new laws in the EU, China, Japan and Australia have sought to regulate local logging and restrict the import of illegal wood products.

Sustainability of Wood - logging
Sustainability of Wood - reusing wood

Re-use of Wood

Other advantages of wood include the fact that wood grows everywhere so it is much easier to source locally and transport and energy costs for transporting it are comparatively less. Wood is also highly recyclable – reclaimed wood from old buildings, pathways and structures can make for ideal flooring and the old, distressed appearance can actually add character to a room.

Energy Consumption of Wood

Hands down, wood beats other materials when it comes to carbon emissions, durability and general environmental impact. Calculations show that a wood floor requires 80 megajoules of energy whereas that made from concrete and steel require 290 and 516 megajoules respectively per square metre. During its lifespan it is estimated that wood has a lower carbon footprint than concrete when taking into account the manufacturing process, transportation, installation, maintenance, daily usage and ultimate disposal. 

Sustainability of Wood - wood cabin
Sustainability of Wood - wood should be treasured

Treasure Wood

Another important consideration is modern sustainability certification. New projects frequently need certification for sustainability and using wood as much as possible is one way to achieve it.

Additionally, wood should also be treasured because of its natural beauty compared with other materials, its durability, uniqueness and its ease to work with in addition to its green properties. 

Popular Woods Today

Sustainability of Wood

Birch

Inexpensive but strong

Sustainability of Wood

Walnut

Dark, strong and stable

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Oak

Prized hardwood with a rich history

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Maple

Consistent grain, beautiful look

Sustainability of Wood

Pine

Inexpensive and rustic

Sustainability of Wood

Mahogany

Fine grains and rot resistant

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