NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 22, 2004

Environmental activists have long campaigned against chopping down trees to build homes, claiming that logging harms environment. However, a new report reveals that wood is a better and more environmentally sound building material than concrete and steel.

According to the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials:

  • In the cold climate of Minnesota, wood frame houses use 17 percent less energy than steel construction for the typical house, and 16 percent less energy for a concrete structure.
  • The same steel frame house also produces 300 percent more emissions into the water supply and 14 percent more air emissions than the wood frame house.
  • In the hot and humid climate of Atlanta, concrete construction used 16 percent more energy and created 23 percent more air emissions than wood houses; moreover, concrete produced 51 percent more solid waste.

The new study involved looking at the total "life cycle assessment" of different construction materials and how they are grown, mined, produced or processed. The life cycle measured everything from the amount of electricity used in manufacturing steel at a plant to the amount of fuel required to operate a logging truck.

Overall, the use of wood has 26 to 31 percent less global warming potential than the use of steel or concrete, say the researchers.

Sources: James Wilson, "Study Endorses Wood as 'Green' Building Material," Eureka Alert, September 21, 2004; and Bruce Lippke et al., "Corrim: Life-Cycle Environmental Performance of Renewable Building Materials," Corrim Reports, June 2004.

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