A life cycle assessment (LCA) project completed recently by the Ontario-based Athena Sustainable Materials Institute provides powerful new evidence for the environmental merits of wood versus concrete.
The analysis compares the environmental footprints of two versions of the same house-one with a raised wood floor, wood walls, and a wood roof, the other with a concrete slab floor system, concrete masonry unit first-story walls, wood-frame second story walls, and a wood roof. Both houses were designed with wood-frame interior walls.
The all-wood version was the winning design in the Carbon Challenge 2010 Florida Design Competition, a program sponsored by APA-The Engineered Wood Association in conjunction with the Raised Floor Living program, a cooperative promotion campaign between APA and the Southern Forest Products Association.
Life cycle assessment is now widely recognized as the most scientifically credible and accurate measure of the environmental impacts of various building materials. By quantifying those impacts from “cradle to grave”-extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, use, maintenance, and disposal or recycling-LCA provides a common basis for objectively assessing and comparing the environmental credentials of dissimilar building designs and materials.