As a material principally manufactured using carbon-neutral biomass energy and having the unique characteristic of sequestering carbon for the life of the structure, wood can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and help meet sustainability and energy efficiency goals in building projects.
AWC and its members are committed to reducing the environmental impact of buildings by encouraging energy-efficient, environmentally responsible choices in the design and building process. The wood products industry supports use of scientifically-justified sustainability evaluation systems and standards that help determine the environmental impacts of building materials. When selecting systems to evaluate building environmental impacts, owners and designers must take a balanced approach that supports open competition for multiple sustainability certification systems and favor rating systems developed through American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-approved procedures.
To be credible, a sustainability rating system must include life cycle assessment (LCA), be developed in a consensus process that meets the spirit of the ANSI guidelines, and recognize all credible sustainable forestry programs in the United States.
- Life cycle assessment: Without being grounded in objective, scientific criteria based on life cycle impacts, a rating system or standard is more likely to reflect the subjective biases of those who have crafted or are implementing the program. Objective criteria (like LCA) help ensure that a rating system or standard will not yield inconsistent results, arbitrary thresholds, or have an emphasis on cost rather than environmental impact measures. LCA also ensures appropriate baselines and measures of improvement and the ability to compare buildings in different locations on equal terms. Science-based selection of building materials results from proper use of LCA.
- Consensus process, ANSI guidelines: Development of a standard under a consensus process provides transparency and ensures the opportunity for meaningful participation by all groups that are affected. A true consensus process also has procedures to ensure balance, consideration of dissenting views and a process for appeals. ANSI is the coordinator of the U.S. standards process and provides strict objective requirements for accreditation of organizations following those processes. A credible rating system must be developed using a process that embodies the elements of consensus as defined by ANSI.
- Sustainable forestry programs: Equal credit should be given to all programs that meet a commonly-accepted set of objective criteria, including internationally-recognized sustainable forestry programs such as those developed by the Forest Stewardship Council, or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® and American Tree Farm System®, both of which are endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes.
Wood is a vital part of making any building sustainable. Governments and the design community should adopt sustainability policies and rating systems that are based on sound science, include LCA, and have been developed in a consensus process.
Increasingly, in legislative, regulatory and building code activities affecting construction, there is confusion over what constitutes a “resilient” product or material.
Read more on the AWC Resiliency Page.