APA - The Engineered Wood Association

Green Topics: Environmental Facts & Green Building

Wood, and more specifically engineered wood, is a renewable building material and is a good choice for the environment, for green building, and for long-term life cycle performance. With intensified interest in environmental impact and green building, it's important to consider the attributes that make wood a good choice for the environment. It's also important to understand how engineered wood products can be used to meet the emerging standards and requirements for green building.

The manufacture of wood products requires substantially less energy than the production of other building products such as steel and concrete. Wood product manufacture results in fewer greenhouse gas and other air-polluting emissions. And wood design compares favorably on the solid waste scale. Its environmental attributes make wood the natural choice for sustainable design.

Learn more about the attributes of wood and get updates on green building programs and initiatives:

Featured Project: Glulam Timber Truss Bridge Spans Remote River

The Placer River Pedestrian Bridge, completed in July 2013, is the longest clear-span glulam timber truss bridge in North America. The 280-foot long camelback bridge is located in Chugach National Forest in Alaska at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, one of five stops planned along a new railway in Alaska’s National Forests and Parks. Designed by Western Wood Structures, the bridge was constructed with preservative-treated Douglas fir glulam trusses, Alaskan Yellow Cedar decking, and steel connectors. Image courtesy of Neil Hunt, Patrick Engineering.

Placer River Pedestrian BridgeThe Placer River Pedestrian Bridge faced unique design challenges. Aesthetically, the US Forest Service wanted the bridge to evoke a look and feel reminiscent of an early 20th century railroad camp. At the same time, the backcountry bridge’s design had to not only withstand extreme weather, but also be placed high enough to avoid collisions with icebergs and ice floes from nearby Spencer Glacier. Sitting 25 feet above the waters of the Placer River, the bridge design meets every requirement for appearance, durability, and strength—and was achieved with cost-effective materials. “People are pleased with the bridge—with the way it looks and with the way it fits in with the setting,” says Rod Dell’Andrea, a structural engineer for the USFS. “It’s truly a context-sensitive design and installation.”

Read more in the APA Case Study: Placer River Trail Bridge, Form Q110

Forest Certification and APA Members

Forest certification programs verify the sustainable forest management practices of land management companies, forest product manufacturers, and other related organizations. View a list of the forest management certifications of select APA member manufacturers.

Featured Project: Glulam Meets Sustainable Building Goals in Bullitt Center

Bullitt center in Seattle, WashingtonDescribed as the greenest commercial building in the world, the Bullitt center in Seattle, Washington pushes the envelope in urban sustainability. The six-story, 52,000-square-foot structure is designed to meet the stringent requirements of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), a performance-based certification program. “We wanted a sustainable building that would last 250 years,” said Brian Court, project architect with The Miller Hull Partnership. “That’s just one of the reasons we chose wood.” John Stamets Photo

Because wood is a sustainable, renewable resource, and because glulam makes efficient use of the materials by bonding smaller pieces of dimension lumber together to form larger beams and columns, glulam was a logical choice over concrete for the Bullitt Center. The podium structure is built with a Type IV heavy timber frame that consists of Douglas-fir glulam beams and columns finished to an industrial appearance grade. According to Brian Oberg of APA-member Calvert Company in Vancouver, Washington, the project required approximately 119,000 board feet of glulam.

Read more in the WoodWorks Bullitt Center Case Study.

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)