How Polluting is Timber?


Before we dive into this, we just need to quickly explain the term 'embodied carbon'. Essentially, this means how much carbon dioxide is emitted through a material's lifespan, including manufacturing, transport, during its usage and at the end of its life. The more energy the product requires to be brought into and out of existence will determine its embodied carbon—or in other words, how polluting it is. 

How polluting is it?

We'll focus on softwood, as that's what our products are made from. Softwood timber emits, on average, 110kg of embodied carbon per cubic metre. That figure doesn't mean much on its own, but to put that into perspective, steel produces a colossal 12090kg (12 tonnes!) of embodied carbon per cubic metre. Just to further enhance that figure, imagine you're stood next to a fairly stout rugby player on the one side and a bus on the other—that's the difference between these two materials for just one metre of a home. 

How is this calculated?

The stark difference between these materials is largely down to the energy needed to harvest and process both. Timber is felled, planed, transported, made into a product—in our case trusses & joists—and transported again. Most of the cO2 emitted is understandably transport, as much of it comes from Scandinavia. Once softwood reaches the end of its lifespan, it's recycled or simply composted. 

In comparison, steel requires iron, lime and other non-renewable materials to be mined, transported, placed in a furnace, stirred, casted, forged, thermally treated/machined, then transported again. Once it reaches the end of its life cycle, fortunately it can be recycled. This does require heating up to around 1300°C though, which as you can imagine isn't an overly efficient process. 

What are the other advantages of timber?

Most of us are aware that trees produce cO2, however what many don't realise is that they are able to store this even after the felling process. According to a BBC article from 2019, homes made primarily from timber captured over 1 million tonnes of cO2 annually. 

If you're constructing your next home, garage, shed or commercial building and need some roof trusses or joists, let us know below and we'll provide a comprehensive quotation completely free of charge. 



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