Redwood Trees—Building a Sustainable Future

Sunrise in the the Redwoods – By Stephen, Adobe Stock # 322472485

Sequoia sempervirens is an extraordinary tree.

It has been the focus of a recent conservation, sustainability, and life-cycle assessment (LCA) study by Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers Richard Bergman PhD and Kamalakanta Sahoo PhD. Their study, “Environmental Impacts of Redwood Lumber: A Cradle-to-Gate Assessment,” measured environmental performance ofthe coastal redwood through LCA by tracking material flows, energy consumption, and emissions from forest management through the lumber manufacturing process. Bergman and his team used SimaPro modeling software to estimate raw material consumption, environmental outputs, and associated impacts along its supply chain.

Like the public, concerns about protecting these trees and keeping forests as forests are also at the forefront of FPL researchers’ minds.

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Research in Progress – Combating Climate Change through Sustainable Wood Products

Copyright atelierjones. Used by permission.

Like a raging forest fire, climate change has many fronts. And it won’t be fixed by a singular solution. Heroic systemic changes throughout all sectors are needed in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Cars, factory smokestacks, and coal are primary sources that easily come to mind when thinking about GHGs.

But turning a key on a brand-new home, whether apartment or single family? Could that really account for nearly a quarter of CO2 emissions?

A 2018 study titled, “Carbon Emission of Global Construction Sector,” found that global construction in 2009 produced 23% of CO2 emissions. That is 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide. And the hunger for new construction has only increased in the years since.

However, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers are on the frontlines of sustainable solutions.

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Researchers Honored for Life Cycle Assessment Work

The American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA) recently honored extraordinary leaders in life cycle assessment (LCA) at the LCA XVII Awards Dinner in Porthsmouth, New Hampshire. Among the winners was the Federal LCA Commons, of which Forest Products Laboratory researchers Richard Bergman, Hongmei Gu, and Shaobo Liang are a part. Continue reading

Environmental Building Declarations: Analyzing a Structure from Cradle to Grave

(The following is a news item from the Athena Institute)

The Design Building at U.Mass Amherst continues an emerging trend in sustainable building transparency

Design Building on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. (Credit: Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects Inc.)

The USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, in cooperation with US WoodWorks, engaged the Athena Institute to prepare an environmental building declaration (EBD) for the Design Building on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. This is a new four-story 87,573 square-foot home for three departments: Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and Building Construction Technology. The cross-laminated timber building, designed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects with structural design engineer Equilibrium Consulting, was completed in January 2017. Continue reading

Measuring Sustainability: How Do Wood Pallets Stack Up?

There are more than 1.8 billion pallets in service in the United States each day, and ninety-three percent of these pallets are made from wood. That staggering statistic begs the question of just how sustainable wooden pallets really are. Luckily, we know who to ask.

Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have set out to investigate the life cycle of wooden pallets in an effort to help manufacturers keep up with the demand for environmentally friendly pallets.

Wooden pallets used for shipping purposes in the United States (NWPCA 2016).

Wooden pallets used for shipping purposes in the United States (NWPCA 2016).

Supervisory Research Forest Products Technologist Rick Bergman said the life-cycle assessment (LCA) study has a number of goals and benefits.

“LCA is a method used to measure the environmental impacts. For example, greenhouse gas emissions that result from the production of a product over its entire life cycle,” Bergman said. “From the extraction of raw materials through production, use, recycling, and ultimately, disposal of the product.”

Researchers are also using the information to help the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), with whom FPL has a memorandum of understanding, develop future environmental product declarations that will result in more sustainable pallet use, and pinpoint areas of success and improvement within the production market.

Bergman and his team will survey a number of pallet manufacturing facilities to collect the assessment data and plan to present the findings at a future conference on LCA or green building.

To learn more about this project and the life of wooden pallets, read the full Research in Progress report.

Interestingly, this isn’t FPL’s first foray into the world of pallets. Click here for a historical perspective dating back to the 1930’s and a great video showing just how monumentally “pallets move the world.”

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta