Consumers are increasingly interested in understanding the environmental impact of the products they use. This course will help you understand how the choice of building materials can have profound impacts on local and global ecosystems, as well as on consumer preferences. “Green building” practices have expanded beyond operational energy efficiency to include factors such as minimizing the embodied carbon impact of a built structure along the supply chain.

As a result, wood’s role as a sustainable building material has become increasingly important. Compared to nonrenewable materials such as steel and concrete, wood is renewable and stores carbon throughout the lifetime of the material. Wood also uses less fossil fuel than substitutable materials (e.g., steel and concrete) across the supply chain, from harvest to manufacturing, transport, installation, maintenance, and disposal or recycling. Procurement of wood building materials from sustainably managed forests creates a sustainably built environment and also supports forest biodiversity, soil and water health, wildlife habitat, social and economic goals, etc.

This course will demonstrate how using wood as a building material contributes to forest sustainability, especially in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Learning Objectives

  • Deepen the understanding of the environmental impacts of wood as a building material in relation to possible substitutable materials with a focus on atmospheric carbon, the primary driver of climate change.
  • Examine the impacts of North American timber harvesting on forest health, forest resilience, and sustainability measures such as biodiversity, soil and water quality, and harvest yield versus net growth.
  • Evaluate the use of wood as a construction material in the context of long-term forest sustainability as well as attributes such as low embodied energy, light carbon footprint, and incentives to landowners.
  • Compare the carbon benefits of unmanaged lands and managed forests where timber is harvested for wood building products.

Pre-Requisite: Basic knowledge of wood as a sustainable building material.