Life Cycle Assessment – Opportunities for Forest Products Sector

Andreja Kutnar, Callum Hill

Abstract


The utilization of wood in long life products, such as construction materials in the built environment, is an
effective way to optimize the use of natural resources while also reducing negative environmental impacts.
However, the environmental benefits of timber, especially in the construction sector, are not always clearly
understood. As a renewable material, timber is available in perpetuity if it is obtained from sustainably managed
forests. Using timber in the built environment stores sequestered atmospheric carbon dioxide in long-life products
and timber can be incinerated at the end of its life (or its multiple lives) with energy recovery, thereby minimizing
demolition waste. The built environment effectively acts as an extension of the forest. The question is: how
should the environmental benefits of timber use be measured and presented? To answer that question, this
paper offers an overview of the life cycle assessment (LCA) methods the forest products sector could broadly
apply to evaluate and report the sustainability performance of wood. In addition to environmental LCA, the
paper also incorporates an overview of organizational LCA (O-LCA), and social LCA (S-LCA). Furthermore, this
paper discusses environmental product declarations (EPDs) and construction standards aiming to enable better
comparability of the environmental performance of products. This review paper concludes with a discussion of
where the opportunities for the forest products sector lie and the need for joint actions within the sector. The
importance of including the storage of sequestered atmospheric carbon dioxide into the standards assessing
the environmental impact is emphasized.


Keywords


environmental impact, environmental product declaration (EPD), forest products, life cycle assessment (LCA), O-LCA, product category rules (PCR), S-LCA, wood

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References


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