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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


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Title: What Is the Impact of Mass Timber Utilization on Climate and Forests?

Source: Sustainability journal

Author(s)Pasternack, Rachel ; Wishnie, Mark ; Clarke, Caitlin ; Wang, Yangyang ; Belair, Ethan ; Marshall, Steve ; Gu, Hongmei ; Nepal, Prakash ; Dolezal, Franz ; Lomax, Guy ; Johnston, Craig ; Felmer, Gabriel ; Morales-Vera, Rodrigo ; Puettmann, Maureen ; Van den Huevel, Robyn

Publication Year: 2022  View PDF »

Category: Journal Articles

Abstract: As the need to address climate change grows more urgent, policymakers, businesses, and others are seeking innovative approaches to remove carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere and decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors. Forests can play a role in reducing atmospheric carbon. However, there is disagreement over whether forests are most effective in reducing carbon emissions when left alone versus managed for sustainable harvesting and wood product production. Cross-laminated timber is at the forefront of the mass timber movement, which is enabling designers, engineers, and other stakeholders to build taller wood buildings. Several recent studies have shown that substituting mass timber for steel and concrete in mid-rise buildings can reduce the emissions associated with manufacturing, transporting, and installing building materials by 13%-26.5%. However, the prospect of increased utilization of wood products as a climate solution also raises questions about the impact of increased demand for wood on forest carbon stocks, on forest condition, and on the provision of the many other critical social and environmental benefits that healthy forests can provide. A holistic assessment of the total climate impact of forest product demand across product substitution, carbon storage in materials, current and future forest carbon stock, and forest area and condition is challenging, but it is important to understand the impact of increased mass timber utilization on forests and climate, and therefore also on which safeguards might be necessary to ensure positive outcomes. To thus assess the potential impacts, both positive and negative, of greater mass timber utilization on forests ecosystems and emissions associated with the built environment, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) initiated a global mass timber impact assessment (GMTIA), a five-part, highly collaborative research program focused on understanding the potential benefits and risks of increased demand for mass timber products on forests and identifying appropriate safeguards to ensure positive outcomes.

Keywords: mass timber; carbon storage; lifecycle analysis; regional demand assessments; global trade modelling; climate change; forest impact assessments; sustainable forest management

Publication Review Process: Formally Refereed

File size: 475 kb(s)

Date posted: 02/25/2022

This publication is also viewable on Treesearch:  view
RITS Product ID: 10430
Current FPL Scientist associated with this product
Gu, Hongmei
Forest Products Technologist

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