Sustainable Wood for Cities

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A first-of-its-kind guide for city projects and policies on sourcing 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 assess wood requirements. A suite of sustainable wood Pathways can be combined into a project Strategy to deliver the best combination of synergies and benefits.  An interactive matrix allows for comparison of strategies, and engagement of diverse decision-makers in the process.

Wood is emerging as a climate-friendly replacement for carbon-intensive materials like concrete, steel and aluminum for large urban buildings and smaller-scale infrastructure. Trees remove CO2 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. 


Wood production can also drive deforestation and emit carbon if it is produced unsustainably, used wastefully, disposed of improperly, or causes forest degradation or permanent deforestation of carbon and biodiversity-rich forests. For wood to be considered “sustainable” in terms of climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing it should address four areas: forest impact, socioeconomic integrity, carbon storage, and life-cycle comparisons. 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.

SW4C Strategies Matrix
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Sustainable wood can come from a number of sources

Wood products have many high-visibility uses in cities

The four pillars that define sustainable wood in the guide

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Visual representation of the structure of the guide

Pathways matrix example showing levels (1, 2, 3) for each pathway and project strategies that allow a comparison of benefits