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How using timber instead of steel and concrete, can greatly impact the environment.

Using timber instead of steel, can greatly impact the environment when building our homes. Studies have shown that a timber-framed house stores roughly 7.5 tones of carbon. While a standard family’s steel framed house can release around 2.9 tones of carbon, into the earth’s atmosphere.

Steel

steel frame house

Lets start with steel it is a more durable material with multiple properties, some being, fire and water-resistant. it also has a higher load capacity than timber. Although, steel has the downfall of being more expensive and having higher Co2 emissions emitted during production.

 

It is assessed that 2 billion tons of steel is produced every year. Which then generates around 8% of global emissions. For each ton of steel produced in the conventional blast furnace, basic oxygen furnace route, between 1.5 and 3 tons of fossil carbon are released into the atmosphere. 2.

Concrete

Concrete is often used as a base structure for steel and timber framed houses. The concrete is poured into the slab and foundations. Concrete is also used in high-rise and multi level buildings. The use of steel increases the load capacity, allowing for higher skyscrapers and innovation in the construction industry.

 

An issue with concrete is that it is also one of the biggest carbon polluters. It is calculated that each year more than 4 billion tones of concrete are produced each year. This also accounts for around 8% of global CO2 emissions. 1.The main key raw material used in Portland cement production is limestone. This releases carbon dioxide as it is heated in a cement kiln. This process accounts for over 55% of cement-related emissions.

 

Cement production plants are already looking at ways to reduce the carbon used to fire the kilns. This has been through the use of low carbon fuels such as biomass. It is estimated that these process could help to reduce carbon emissions by a third. The future could mean more biomass fuels and green hydrogen cement plants.

concrete

Timber

Timber Frame

The storing of carbon dioxide is done through a trees ability to process carbon with photosynthesis. Timber used in building, can store between 30-40% of the new homes Co2 emissions produced, through its lifetime. In fact, for every dry ton of timber produced, 1.8 tones of carbon dioxide are taken from the earth’s atmosphere.

 

A disadvantage to using timber in construction is it will over time begin to shrink, crack and even swell, if it comes into contact with moisture. If timber its not treated correctly rot and termites can destroy it. Unlike concrete and steel, timber is not water or fire resistant.

 

Lets look at the environmental benefits to using timber in home construction. Studies have shown that if you swap timber for steel, it is possible to cut Co2 emissions by 0.9 tons per cubic meter. This means when building a standard 3 bedroom detached house in the UK, you are reducing the carbon footprint of the house from 20 tons to about 17 tons. This is just by using a timber frame instead of a steel frame. Which from the outset doesn’t seem a great deal but if you multiple these numbers by the amount of new homes being built in the UK each year, it suddenly turns into an astonishing amount.

In conclusion, until the carbon emissions from concrete and steel production are radically reduced. Timber, although not as durable, would less impact the environment. We need governments to push manufactures to innovate the production process. We don’t see a future without steel or concrete being used in construction. So lets find a find a way to innovate the process to become environment friendly.

References

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