Journal article Open Access

Life Cycle Assessment – Opportunities for Forest Products Sector

Kutnar, Andreja; Hill, Callum AS

The utilization of wood in long life products, such as construction materials in the built environment, is an e ective way to optimize the use of natural resources while also reducing negative environmental impacts. However, the environmental bene ts of timber, especially in the construction sector, are not always clearly understood. As a renewable material, timber is available in perpetuity if it is obtained from sustainably managed forests. Using timber in the built environment stores sequestered atmospheric carbon dioxide in long-life products and timber can be incinerated at the end of its life (or its multiple lives) with energy recovery, thereby minimizing demolition waste. The built environment e ectively acts as an extension of the forest. The question is: how should the environmental bene ts of timber use be measured and presented? To answer that question, this paper o ers an overview of the life cycle assessment (LCA) methods the forest products sector could broadly apply to evaluate and report the sustainability performance of wood. In addition to environmental LCA, the paper also incorporates an overview of organizational LCA (O-LCA), and social LCA (S-LCA). Furthermore, this paper discusses environmental product declarations (EPDs) and construction standards aiming to enable better comparability of the environmental performance of products. This review paper concludes with a discussion of where the opportunities for the forest products sector lie and the need for joint actions within the sector. The importance of including the storage of sequestered atmospheric carbon dioxide into the standards assessing the environmental impact is emphasized.
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