Timber buildings are popping up around the world. Are they the solution to construction’s carbon problem?
Construction materials alone, including carbon and steel, contribute 11% of global carbon emissions (by comparison, air travel contributes about 2.5%). That’s why architects and development companies around the world are opting for a novel but not-so-new solution: wood. A study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Germany, found that with proper forest management, a global boom in wood buildings could sequester up to 700 million tons of carbon a year (wood naturally stores carbon, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere). The idea is catching on: Google’s Sidewalk Labs has proposed a 12-acre timber neighborhood in Toronto, while in February, France mandated that all public buildings after 2022 be constructed of at least 50% wood or other organic materials. The University of Arkansas completed the largest timber building in the U.S. last fall, a 202,000-square-foot dormitory. Architects (and governments) are embracing the material and finding innovative ways to use it.
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