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Mass timber: wood buildings as a climate solution
Private timberland investment can help unlock the climate mitigation potential of substituting wood for conventional building materials and may provide added value for investors with climate or portfolio decarbonization targets.
Mass timber is a category of engineered wood products designed for structural applications. The development of mass timber technology in recent decades has paved the way for constructing low-rise, mid-rise, and industrial buildings with wood. Whereas traditional building materials like concrete and steel emit CO2 when produced, trees used to make mass timber products naturally absorb and store carbon as they grow. Increasing the amount of wood used in buildings, as a substitute for these more carbon intensive materials, has the potential to significantly reduce emissions from the building sector which currently accounts for about 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually.1 In addition to climate benefits, in some markets, mass timber construction also has economic advantages over traditional approaches. Altogether, conditions are primed for growth in mass timber markets and potential disruption in the construction sector.
In this paper, we provide an overview of mass timber markets and examine the potential climate benefits of wood-based construction. We begin with an introduction to mass timber products used in building construction. Next, we provide an overview of mass timber production and consumption, with a focus on North America and the E.U. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of what growing markets for mass timber mean for timberland investors.
1Why The Building Sector? – Architecture 2030
Photo: Industrial warehouse at Southfield Park 35 Warehouse in Dallas, TX. Photo credit: Southfield Park 35 Warehouse / PDMS Group / Timberlab / photo Erika Brown Edwards