Make it Green: What Are the Greenest Choices of Wood for Building?

June 18, 2012

This guest post has been provided by Nathan Clarke.

There has been plenty of debate recently about what exactly is the greenest material that can be utilised within the construction industry. Naturally (no pun intended), wood is a prime candidate when it comes to contenders for this coveted spot.

There are plenty of reasons that wood has been highlighted as one of the main competitors for this particular crown. Not only can it be a renewable resource, but it also actively removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; which can be useful in counteracting the ever-accumulating greenhouse gases which serve to threaten the environment.

A report by the United States Forestry Service has recently reiterated this fact. The U.S Department of Agriculture’s Climate Change Advisor, David Cleaves, commented: “The argument that somehow non-wood construction materials are ultimately better for carbon emissions than wood products is not supported by our research.

“Trees removed in an environmentally responsible way allow forests to continue to sequester carbon through new forest growth. Wood products continue to benefit the environment by storing carbon long after the building has been constructed,” he added.

Despite these glowing credentials, many people are still managing to miss the vital point about utilising wood in construction in a green manner: trees must be removed in an “environmentally responsible way”.

‘Environmentally responsible’ can be a difficult nut to crack for some people. What exactly does it mean?

One of the most common views is that legality is a big part of the picture: “If it’s legal to buy, it’s got to be good for the planet.”

This isn’t necessarily the case.

Surprisingly, only 8 percent of the world’s remaining rainforest is protected under international law. This means that there is still a lot of room for wood, which is damaging the environment to make its way into a constructor’s hands.

This means, while some certainly is, not all wood is “good wood”. With that in mind, people must ensure that they pay extra attention to exactly where the wood that they are using in coming from. One way to do this is to make sure that any wood-based products which are being bought are marked by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). This environmental charity aims to make sure that all wooden-products that bear its mark are sourced from renewable forests.

In addition to this, there are some excellent alternatives for wood that people tend to overlook. Chief amongst these is bamboo. Although bamboo is technically not a wood (it is in fact a woody plant), it is an excellent construction material. Bamboo is both light and extremely strong; bamboo is even known to have a higher tensile strength than many steel alloys. There are also other green benefits when it comes to bamboo; these include the fact that its root system stays intact while regenerating (preventing soil erosion), and the fact that it is the fastest growing plant on the planet!

Another green method of obtaining wood for construction purposes is to reclaim it. As the name suggests, this is simply taking some already felled wood and utilising it for another purpose. This is a great option as it serves to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ – you get the characteristics of the wood you initially desired, whilst being secure in  the knowledge that you are reusing what has already been taken – helping to stop further felling of endangered trees.

For those who are intent on using actual wood, then the UK newspaper, The Independent, has an excellent guide which details wood that is widely used in common home construction tasks; it also provides details on their levels of sustainability and offers alternatives if you do feel inclined to change your mind!

About the author for this sponsored post: Nathan Clarke is a professional guest blogger; he writes on behalf of an online supplier of wooden shutters (whose website is located here). He hopes to get readers thinking about the materials they choose to use for construction and DIY tasks.

Art Provided by Nathan Clarke