Sustainable Wood for Cities

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A first-of-its-kind guide that helps cities source wood to benefit climate, environment, and society

Sustainable Wood for Cities simplifies wood sourcing for city officials and helps them compare the impacts of different sourcing strategies. Based on project goals and constraints, the interactive framework takes users through a step-by-step process to guide wood choices towards the most sustainable option. Eight pathways are explored and a subset selected to create a project strategy that maximizes synergies and benefits.  An interactive matrix allows for the easy comparison of different strategies and the engagement of diverse decision-makers in the process.

Sustainable Wood for Cities was instrumental in helping the City of Vancouver align our wood procurement policy with our climate emergency

and embodied carbon strategy.

– Patrick Enright, Green Building Engineer

Wood is growing in popularity. It is increasingly seen as a climate-friendly replacement for carbon-intensive materials like concrete, steel, and aluminum for large urban buildings and smaller-scale infrastructure. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which remains stored in wood for as long as the material remains intact. Using sustainable, responsibly sourced wood can help to conserve forests, potentially producing massive climate and biodiversity benefits. 

 

However, wood production can also drive deforestation, emissions, and biodiversity loss if it is produced unsustainably, used wastefully, disposed of improperly, or causes forest degradation or permanent deforestation. For wood to be considered “sustainable” in terms of climate, biodiversity, and human well-being it should address four areas: forest impact, socioeconomic integrity, carbon storage, and life-cycle emissions. Engaging with the complete production system of wood products must be the foundation of a sustainable sourcing strategy. 

 

Strategic sourcing is the key to the climate and environmental benefits of building with wood. Sustainable Wood for Cities combines the latest insights from research and practice to assist cities in choosing and sourcing wood products – through specifications, procurement criteria, and policies – that have a measurable impact on climate and forests. Cities can and should integrate the benefits of these choices into their larger environmental goals and climate action plans.

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A sample Evaluation Matrix shows how wood options for a project are compared by scoring each wood's impact level (1, 2, 3) in each pathway.

Watch the recording of our 2021 London Climate Action Week event on Sustainable Wood for Cities.

Wood products have many vital uses in cities and can be a climate-friendly alternative to concrete, steel, or aluminum.

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The 8 pathways are entry points to sustainable wood. Taking multiple pathways together in one project enhances the positive impact.

Sustainable wood can come from diverse sources: small scale or large scale, near to or far from the city.

The Sustainable Wood for Cities Guide defines sustainable wood according to four pillars.

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