Updating of U.S. Wood Product Life-Cycle Assessment Data for Environmental Product Declarations

The FPL publication of the month is Updating of U.S. Wood Product Life-Cycle Assessment Data for Environmental Product Declarations by Richard Bergman.

Demand for credible and transparent product eco-labels based on life-cycle assessment (LCA) data is increasing, especially involving international trade. Over the past several years, stakeholders in the U.S. wood products industry have developed many such “eco-labels” under the ISO standard of LCA-based environmental product declarations (EPDs). The standard requires data to be less than 10 years old. Under the umbrella of the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM), the process of updating the data for many structural wood products’ life-cycle inventories (LCIs) has begun. Some of these wood product LCIs include softwood lumber, oriented strandboard, plywood, laminated veneer lumber, I-joists, and glulam.

input_output

Complete life cycle from regeneration of trees to disposal of wood materials.

CORRIM wood product LCA studies on wood products have been instrumental in informing stakeholders about the environmental benefits of using wood materials for building. Ongoing LCA research will enable the wood products industry to better understand environmental impacts associated with manufacturing their products, to plan for product and process improvements, and to gain entry into competing markets. Environmental concerns continue to increase, especially for the building industry, and wood products have positive environmental benefits that are demonstrated by EPDs and other marketing efforts.

Key points

  • Green building certification systems have become more prominent in the building industry.
  • Continuing LCA and EPD development will help wood products manufacturers to improve existing products and create new products with lower environmental impacts.
  • This work will help wood to compete well with other building products.
  • Research cooperators include
    • USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin;
    • Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials, Seattle, Washington;
    • WoodLife Environmental Consultants, LLC, Corvallis, Oregon; and
    • University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.