Engineered Wood: how green is it really?

Why would engineered wood be more eco-friendly than concrete, steel or even ”natural” lumber?

Looking at the big picture, if you compare engineered wood to steel or concrete, wood simply consumes much less fossil fuels in its manufacturing, and therefore can be considered clearly more renewable. Though a tree might take 60 years to regrow, that is nothing compared to the 500 million years it takes to reform the petroleum used in the manufacturing cycle of concrete or steel.

Also, manufacturing wood products has the advantage of generating combustible waste, which helps produce electricity and heat, making wood production’s carbon foot print smaller. It’s important to note that even burning wood does not put a burden on the environment as it is considered ”carbon neutral”, as the carbon dioxide released when burning is already accounted for in the tree’s lifecycle. Burning wood has the equivalent carbon release of decomposing wood, and both are balanced out by the amount of carbon dioxide that a tree absorbs in its lifetime.

So that puts wood clearly ahead of steel and concrete in eco-friendliness, but how could engineered wood be even more eco-friendly than plain old milled lumber?

If you look at the acquisition step of the wood manufacturing process, widely used traditional 2 x 10s or 2 x 12s are milled from larger trees than those needed for engineered wood, and the resulting deforestation is more impactful. Engineered wood on the other hand is made from a combination of adhesives and wood particles that can come from the smallest trees. In an advanced manufacturing facility like the one used to create Open-Joist Triforce®, the wood particles can even come from normally unused portions of the tree, such as the head.

When the wood is processed, engineered wood products are particularly efficient: in the making of OSB, for example up to 90% of the raw material is put to use as a wood product. In the case of milled lumber, that number drops to 60% or less.

With all these aspects taken into consideration, engineered wood can thus be considered a very green choice indeed.


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