Researchers from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies found that the use of wood-based products for urban growth could reduce the negative effects of climate change. Designing buildings with engineered timber has the potential to create a blank vault that can store up to 68 million tons of carbon annually. This method would drastically reduce carbon emissions from the construction sector.

(Source: Unsplash)(Source: Unsplash)

A large-scale wood-based construction sector would create a new harmonious relationship between natural systems and cities. With this kind of construction, cities would become carbon sinks rather than a carbon sources.

Wood became unpopular for large products because of its variant nature, absorption and desorption properties that change wood shape, and the risk of fire. But recent technological advances have changed the wood materials sector. Mass timber technologies have engineered wood products laminated from smaller boards and materials. This enables producers to break down the wood materials into the smallest components and recompose them to remove the material’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The team has tested glue-laminated beams and cross-laminated timber structures. These structures demonstrated fire-resistance in buildings up to 18 stories.

Before large-scale expansion of mass timber can be achieved a few things need to be changed. This includes building codes, construction worker training, expanding the bio-based products sector, adjusting urban planning and downscaling mineral materials production. It also requires advances in forest sustainability and reforestation to prevent over-exploitation of forests.

The team says that before the wood can be regularly used, more research needs to be conducted on the lifecycle of wood to ensure that the carbon stored remains there for a long time.

The study was published in Nature Sustainability.