How can using wood help address climate change?

Wood stores carbon. It also has a low embodied energy compared to most other building materials. The use of responsibly sourced wood can make a real difference in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from other, more greenhouse-intensive materials. This is already happening internationally particularly in North America and Europe.

To explain this further we've developed a short video

Why is it important to store carbon? How / where is carbon stored?

Increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are the main cause of climate change. Stored carbon is CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, increasing concentrations of CO2 and accelerating climate change.  Carbon is stored in a tree by the process of photosynthesis. On average, trees absorb 1 tonne of CO2 for every cubic metre's growth, producing 727 kgs of oxygen.

How is it possible to build so tall from wood?

Tall wooden buildings generally use a technology developed in Europe - Cross Laminate Timber (CLT). This is a versatile multi-layered panel made of lumber. Each layer of boards is placed cross-wise to adjacent layers for increased rigidity and strength. CLT can be used for long spans and all assemblies, e.g. floors, walls or roofs. 

The world's tallest wooden building is currently in NE London and stands at 9 storeys. It uses this technology and is built from responsibly managed timber.  However, this is soon to be topped by Lend Lease's Forte in Melbourne, currently under construction.  By using CLT, Forté, will reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by more than 1,400 tonnes when compared to concrete and steel - the equivalent of removing 345 cars from our roads.

What are well-managed forests?

A well-managed forest (or responsibly managed forest) is managed with respect for the planet, people and prosperity. This covers the choice and mix of species, thinning to encourage good growth, harvesting at maturity, assuring afforestation and reforestation (natural regrowth and planting) more than balance harvesting, as well as respecting the ecosystems on which local flora and fauna depend, and the way of life of people who depend upon the forest.

We can tell that the wood we buy has been sourced from a well-managed forest by looking for certification.  These schemes also ensure that the wood has not come from areas of high conservation value forest.  

What is certification?

Certification is designed to allow consumers to select products made from wood from well-managed forests and plantations. In order to be certified the wood must be able to demonstrate chain of custody.

The chain of custody refers to all the steps in the process of taking certified wood and non-wood products from the forest, through the various manufacturing and distribution stages and ultimately to the point where the final consumer purchases the product, whether it is from a retail store, a builder or directly from the forest manager. This includes transport, manufacture, trading, broking, wholesaling and retailing. Importantly, the chain of custody includes all steps of ownership, not just those involving physical possession. The chain of custody provides recognition of an organisation's compliance with the 'standard' through a system of independent third party certification. 

Wood certification is a process that results in a written statement (a certificate) attesting to the origin of wood raw material and its status and/or qualifications, often following validation by an independent third party. Certification is designed to allow participants to measure their forest management practices against standards and to demonstrate compliance with those standards.

Is it bad to use tropical hardwood?

Yes, if there is no credible evidence that it has been legally logged.

No, if it is sourced from a well-managed forest or plantation as deemed by certification.

If wood is sourced from overseas, how can we ensure it comes from responsible sources?

Whether wood is sourced from overseas or from within Australia it is important to ensure that it is sourced from well-managed forests and plantations. Wood products that have been sourced responsibly rather than illegally logged will be certified. Unfortunately Illegal logging still occurs in some important environmentally vulnerable areas such as South-East Asia and the Pacific islands.  The only way to stop this happening is to choose only certified wood from well-managed forests and plantations. When making purchasing decisions the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the best choice.

What is the difference between a carbon sink and a carbon store?

A carbon sink is active: a mechanism that actively absorbs carbon dioxide (like forests, oceans or the soil).   A carbon store is passive: an object that holds carbon dioxide as carbon as part of its structure / make up etc (like wood).

The carbon stored in the tree continues to be stored in the wood products made from the harvested tree, and beyond, through reuse and recycling.

What is the difference between carbon and carbon dioxide (CO2)?

Carbon is a chemical element with the symbol C and atomic number 6. Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms and a single carbon atom. One tonne of carbon equals 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Carbon is stored on the Earth in different ways. When carbon is in the atmosphere it takes the form of carbon dioxide. If too much carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up in the atmosphere it acts as a warming agent contributing to climate change. Trees can help restore a balance through the carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide, storing it as carbon and releasing oxygen. Wood products store carbon for life. Unfortunately, the term 'carbon' is often used as shorthand for carbon dioxide (CO2), as in 'carbon footprint'.