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Building Timber Cities to Protect the Climate

Could buildings made of wood be one solution to protect the climate and reduce CO2? This article by Stephen Leahy on The Hill outlines how building timber cities can help to protect the climate and prevent deforestation. We have included a snapshot of the article below, read the full article here.

An 18-story apartment building in Brumunddal, Norway, is not only the world’s tallest timber building, it’s also the world’s tallest carbon dioxide sink. The building's timber structure, including elevator shafts, are made entirely from cross-laminated timber with columns made from glued-laminated timber. The same materials will be used for a massive 500,000 square-foot timber office complex on the waterfront of Newark, New Jersey. In Sweden, a new development in Stockholm will see 31 timber towers rise 25 to 35 stories from the waterfront to house 3,000 apartments and 30 shops and restaurants.

Wood, or more specifically cross-laminated timber (CLT), is the hot new building material due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, precise prefabrication in a factory and ease and speed of assembly on building sites. Designers also say timber buildings can be a powerful tool in the struggle to reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and will release it if the tree decays or is burned. However, if the wood is used in a building that CO2 could be locked away for many decades, or even hundreds of years. Such timber buildings are carbon sinks — a place that keeps CO2 from getting into the air. A second benefit from using wood as a building material is that it reduces the amount of cement and steel production, both of which are large CO2 emitters. However, if most new buildings are made from wood they could store close to 700 million tons of CO2 every year.

A five-story residential building structured in laminated timber can store up to 180 kilograms (396 pounds) of carbon per square meter, according to the study. That’s three times more than trees in a similar sized area of forest would naturally store. So that 500,000 square-foot timber office complex in Newark, N.J., may end up being a permanent storage site for around 8.4 million kilograms (18.5 million pounds) of CO2.

Research into the potential impacts of a shift to timber cities is ongoing so that safeguards and appropriate policies can be put in place to protect forests and encourage the use of timber. “These are beautiful buildings with wide open spaces that are wonderful to live or work in.”

Read the original article here.


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