How can timber be used to reduce environmental impact of a new build?

Published Tuesday 11th October 2016

Traditional building materials such as steel and concrete are having a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a huge problem for which the construction industry and building professionals are now seeking out viable solutions for the structures of the future.

Wood, on the other hand, naturally absorbs carbon dioxide. It is uncontested when it comes to selecting an environmentally responsible building material.

Enter timber

Timber can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of a new build. Of all the main building materials, timber is the most environmentally friendly, as it has the lowest energy consumption and the lowest carbon dioxide emissions.

Timber is not toxic, does not release chemical vapour into the building. It’s safe to handle and touch, ages naturally, and does not break down into environmentally damaging materials.

Timber continues to be grown all over the world. As long as it is replanted it will continue to be available. It does not take very much energy to transfer wood to timber for use in buildings, therefore the embodied energy is very low.  For these reasons it’s an environmentally responsible option for building as opposed to more polluting alternatives.

Timber is made from carbon which would otherwise be in the atmosphere. This carbon would otherwise be adding to the greenhouse effect.

Creating energy

When used as a building material, timber prevents energy from escaping in buildings which can also reduce emissions and energy expenditure. It is easy to work with during the construction phase which means less energy is needed.

Using timber encourages the expansion of forestry, which reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

An entire lifecycle considered

Timber is biodegradable which means it can be broken down naturally by microorganisms when it comes to the end of its lifespan. This feature ensures the lifecycle of timber is green from its creation to its use in the building to the end of its journey.

So how is timber used in construction?

Timber is versatile, strong and an enduring favourite for building, not just because of the practical quality of the material but also due to its natural aesthetic.

There are many examples of beautiful timber structures across the world, and it’s not hard to see why it has stood the test of time.

Architects are replacing other popular building materials with timber in order to maximise usage and reduce environmental impact. Timber can be used throughout the building in a variety of applications from the frame to the beams to the floor work to the formwork to timber panels. It’s no surprise that designers are incorporating more and more timber into their design.

As well as being versatile and environmentally friendly, timber provides acoustic, thermal and strength performance. Advances in technology are such that larger and larger buildings can be built using timber.

So are wooden skyscrapers a viable alternative to skyscrapers made from traditional materials?

Wood is lighter meaning less lorries are needed to transport it from A to B. Foundations are not required to be so deep and they can be built faster and at a lower cost than if more traditional materials were used.

It’s very much a developing area of architecture but something which will eventually have huge consequences for our planet in reducing emissions and promoting green building techniques.

More and more timber skyscrapers are being built around the world and the trend looks set to continue. Have you seen any stunning examples of timber architecture? Share them with us on Twitter or via our Facebook page.