APA - The Engineered Wood Association

Green Building

Sustainable (or "green") building is the newest trend in building design and construction, and it's one that will make a lasting impression on the future of our planet. Green building incorporates building design, construction, and maintenance to promote more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and sustainable building practices. Green builders select appropriate sites, employ green materials, take advantage of optimum lighting, and install energy-efficient mechanical equipment.

And there's good news for industry professionals building with wood. They're already using the world's most renewable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly building product available. This page includes information on the benefits of life cycle assessment, wood's role in green building, and a who's who in green building.

Green Building and Life Cycle Assessment

What makes a building program green? The complexity of modern products makes it difficult to measure sustainability. In scientific circles, life cycle assessment (LCA) is emerging as the accepted way to determine the true environmental impact of any product. A measurement from "cradle to grave" of the product, including raw material extraction, manufacture, distribution, use, maintenance, and destruction, LCA examines pollution, human health, and energy efficiency over the lifespan of the product. This eliminates biased rankings that occur in an evaluation of a product based on one criterion. Because LCA examines the entire picture of a material's impact, it is an objective means to determine environmental impact and thus a focal point for accurately measuring green building attributes. Download the Wood Promotion Network's Wood and Green Building fact sheet, The Role of Life Cycle Assessment (901 KB PDF), for more information.

Wood's LCA Rankings

Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM)

The Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) was formed by a group of scientists in 1976 to investigate energy concerns about building materials. The 1976 CORRIM report supported wood’s energy-efficient nature, the hot issue of the time. In recent years, however, environmental concerns have joined with energy efficiency questions, and CORRIM came together in 1998 as a group of 15 research institutions to update the 1976 study, incorporating recent energy and environmental concerns and using LCA. The CORRIM study examined the construction and performance of houses in the cold climate of Minneapolis and the hot and humid climate of Atlanta. The CORRIM study found the use of wood in both locations presented significantly less environmental risks than the steel-frame or concrete-frame alternatives. The results demonstrated wood’s benefits in almost all of the five categories of embodied energy, global warming potential, air emission index, water emissions, and solid waste for both locations:

CORRIM Findings:
Environmental performance indices for residential construction

Minneapolis house

Wood frame

Steel frame

Difference

Steel vs. wood (% change)

Embodied energy (GJ)

651

764

113

17%

Global warming potential (CO 2 kg)

37,047

46,826

9,779

26%

Air emission index (index scale)

8,566

9,729

1,163

14%

Water emission index (index scale)

17

70

53

312%

Solid waste (total kg)

13,766

13,641

-125

-0.9%

 




Atlanta house

Wood frame

Concrete frame

Difference

Concrete vs. wood (% change)

Embodied energy (GJ)

398

461

63

16%

Global warming potential (CO 2 kg)

21,367

28,004

6,637

31%

Air emission index (index scale)

4,893

6,007

1,114

23%

Water emission index (index scale)

7

7

0

0%

Solid waste (total kg)

7,442

11,269

3,827

51%

The CORRIM research clearly indicates a scientifically based endorsement of wood as a green building material.

Related Information


Green Building Fact Sheets:

Trends in Wood Buildings (213 KB PDF)

Wood and Green Building - Why using wood from North American forests is a sustainable choice (217 KB PDF)

U.S. Wood Products - Good for jobs, rural communities and the environment (220 KB PDF)


CORRIM (Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials) fact sheets:

Maximizing Forest Contributions to Carbon Mitigation, Fact sheet 5 (416 KB PDF)

Product and Process Environmental Improvement Analysis for Buildings, Fact sheet 6 (166 KB PDF) 

Wood and Green Building fact sheets produced by the Wood Promotion Network:

LEED® vs. Green Globes™, Form WP G330 (778 KB PDF)

Home Builder Guidelines, Form WP G335 (769 KB PDF)

The Role of Life Cycle Assessment, Form WP G340 (901 KB PDF)

Using Wood to Fight Climate Change, Form WP G345 (773 KB PDF)


Related Publication:

Wood: Sustainable Building Solutions, Form F305 (3 Mb)