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The Environmental Impact of CLT: Green Building for a Better Future

Lessons Learned from the 20th Century Leads to A Cleaner Future


Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a revolutionary building material that is rapidly gaining popularity in the construction industry worldwide.


Cross-laminated timber supplied by XLam

This engineered wood product is made by stacking layers of lumber boards in alternating directions and then glueing them together, resulting in a strong, stable, and versatile panel that can be used for walls, floors, and roofs.


CLT has emerged as a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials as it is made from renewable resources and has a much lower carbon footprint.


It also offers several advantages over conventional building materials, including faster construction times, improved energy efficiency, better insulation, easier delivery time and less weight, helping fuel consumption on transportation.


The use of CLT in construction has been gaining popularity since the turn of the century. Not only is it more sustainable than traditional building materials, but it also provides a greater degree of design flexibility, allowing architects and builders to create innovative and aesthetically pleasing structures.


Overall, CLT is a game-changer in the construction industry, and its popularity is only expected to grow in the coming years as more and more architects and builders embrace this sustainable building material.



A Past to Forget - But Learn From


In the past, the construction industry relied heavily on traditional building materials like concrete and steel, which caused significant environmental damage.


Concrete, being one of the most widely used materials in construction, is responsible for approximately 8% of global CO2 emissions, making it one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.


Concrete structure

The production of steel also requires significant amounts of energy and releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


Furthermore, the energy-intensive processes used in construction contributed to the depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation.


Heating, cooling, and lighting systems accounted for a significant portion of global energy consumption, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change.



The Construction Industry Needed Cleaning Up - FAST


The construction industry was also responsible for producing vast amounts of waste, including construction debris and demolition waste, which ended up in landfills and contributed to environmental pollution.


Waste disposal site

The widespread use of traditional building materials without regard for their environmental impact led to significant environmental problems, including climate change, pollution, and depletion of natural resources.


This unsustainable approach to construction was not only detrimental to the environment but also posed a threat to human health and well-being.



Adopting Sustainability - But where do you start?


The adoption of sustainable building materials like cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a crucial step towards creating a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future for the construction industry.


LFCS building with Cross-Laminated Timber

This is now, but we’ve had to come a long way to get CLT widely tested, appreciated and put into full production and then, on top of that, being widely adopted throughout the construction industry worldwide.



Time for a Global Consensus and Governments to Step Up


In recent years, there has been a significant global push towards reducing carbon emissions and adopting sustainable building materials in the construction industry.


This has been driven by international summits and agreements on climate change, such as the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.


Many countries around the world have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint by promoting the use of sustainable building materials in construction.



The EU


They set a target for all new buildings to be nearly zero-energy by 2020 (that hasn't been achieved, but huge progress was made), which has led to increased adoption of sustainable building materials like cross-laminated timber (CLT) in construction.



United States


The International Living Future Institute launched the Living Building Challenge, a certification program that encourages sustainable building materials and practices. This program has led to increased adoption of sustainable building materials like bamboo, straw bale, and rammed earth in construction.



Australia


Several initiatives have been implemented to promote the use of sustainable materials in construction and reduce carbon emissions.


One such initiative is the Green Star rating system, which is a voluntary program that assesses the sustainability of buildings and encourages the use of sustainable building materials and practices.


The Green Star rating system assesses buildings based on several categories:

  • Energy efficiency

  • Water efficiency

  • Materials

  • Indoor environment quality

  • Innovation

The materials category encourages the use of sustainable building materials like cross-laminated timber (CLT).


Another initiative is the National Construction Code (NCC), which is a set of regulations that sets minimum standards for the design and construction of buildings in Australia.


The NCC includes provisions for energy efficiency and encourages the use of sustainable building materials and practices.


There are also several industry-led initiatives, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification program, which promotes responsible forest management and encourages the use of sustainably sourced wood products in construction.


The FSC certification program ensures that the wood used in construction comes from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.



Other Sustainable and Effective Materials in Use


Other sustainable building materials that are gaining popularity in the industry include engineered wood products like:

  • Laminated veneer lumber (LVL)

  • Glue-laminated timber (Glulam)

  • Wood-plastic composites (WPC)

These materials offer several advantages over traditional building materials, including improved sustainability, superior strength-to-weight ratio, and increased design flexibility.



Summary


The global push towards reducing carbon emissions and adopting sustainable building materials in construction has led to increased adoption of materials like CLT and other engineered wood products, bamboo, straw bale, and rammed earth. Plus, with all the initiatives we’ve mentioned above, new discoveries are being pushed forward for verification at a rapid pace. As scientists are starting to tap into natural resources and move us away from fossil fuels, hopefully almost entirely by 2050, the future looks a lot better than the past.

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