A leading expert on the use of wood as a building material has urged architects to consider using it as a way to help address climate change.

Speaking at Leaf London last week, Canada’s Université Laval’s Dean of Forestry and Geomatics Robert Beauregard said using wood instead of concrete and steel can dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“Wood is the only renewable building material and it is a carbon sink,” Beauregard says.

Wood retains carbon dioxide and requires little in transport and building requirements.

However, better policies and more research would have to address deforestation, wood disposal and the burning of forests to ensure environmental sustainability and the ongoing benefit of such efforts.

Concrete designs, on the other hand, can overall consume up to 50 percent more energy than wood, according to research carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organisation.

Beauregard says recent findings go against beliefs that forestation leads to an increase in greenhouse emissions and that with the backing of new research and government policy, the architectural and building industry can dramatically help tackle climate change.

Fossil fuel is one of the main sources of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, as well as deforestation and concrete production.

Figures from the IPCC show that substituting concrete with wood can decrease anthropogenic carbon emissions by 1.1t for every cubic metre of wood used.

Figures for steel sit between both resources.

“This is one of the main things we can do to improve this situation [of global warming],” Beauregard says.

By Penny Jones