Carbon Smart Attributes
Specify reclaimed wood products
Wood will re-release the carbon it has sequestered at the end of its useful life through decomposition or burning. Use reclaimed, salvaged, or recycled wood products whenever possible to prolong this carbon storage.
Only specify timber from sustainably managed forests
Forest management practices can greatly influence the carbon footprint of a wood product, so specify wood and wood products from sustainably managed forests. Among other attributes, sustainably managed forests establish protected areas and conserve biodiversity, have a management plan and harvest accordingly, replant trees to replace the harvested trees, and use reduced-impact logging techniques, all of which reduce the embodied carbon impact of the timber2.
Specify fast growing wood
Fast-growing trees store carbon faster than slow-growing trees. Specify wood from sustainably managed forests that support fast growing trees and plant new trees to replace harvested timber.
Specify wood products manufactured without fossil fuels or GHG-emitting biofuels
Many wood processing plants are powered by fossil fuels or wood chips, but wood chips (a form of biomass) are not necessarily carbon neutral. Burning wood immediately releases its sequestered carbon, and it takes decades for replacement trees to absorb and sequester that same amount of carbon. Whenever possible, specify wood products that are manufactured using renewable, non-CO2 emitting energy sources.
Don’t specify wood harvested from old growth forests
The ecosystem- and carbon-impacts of harvesting old growth forests and rainforests are significant. To minimize these impacts, only specify wood from new growth, sustainably managed forests. A significant portion of carbon sequestered by trees is pushed into the soil around the tree. Harvesting old growth forests and rainforests greatly disturbs the ground, releasing much of that sequestered carbon. Additionally, old growth forests and rainforests provide diverse habitats for a wide range of species that have developed over multiple decades or centuries. Harvesting these forests can cause significant ecosystem disruptions.
Specify wood products with minimal processing
Typically, the more processing a wood product undergoes the higher the embodied carbon impact. For example, glulam timber and other engineered wood products emit more CO2 than sawn lumber due to the added manufacturing processes, which often include the application of heat and pressure and the use of adhesives1. Additionally, most engineered wood products use virgin wood and are difficult to recycle, with the exception of glulams. However, while engineered wood typically has a higher embodied carbon impact per unit weight, some engineered wood products are stronger than sawn lumber thus requiring a smaller material quantity, which may reduce emissions overall – see Design Guidance.