Green building materials and green design are hot topics in architecture and design. But what criteria do you use to decide what products are more environmentally friendly? Many recent studies argue that the only effective way to compare products for their environmental impact is life cycle assessment.

The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is engaged in the largest life cycle assessment (LCA) project ever undertaken in the international hardwood sector. The project promotes a more scientifically based approach to material specification and green building design. The main emphasis of stage one of this study was collection of life cycle inventory data for all stages from extraction of hardwoods in the forest through processing and delivery of both lumber and veneer products.

Preliminary results show that from forest to delivery, carbon emissions during all stages of extraction, processing and transport are more than offset by carbon storage in U.S. hardwood lumber products. This would mean that hardwoods are at least carbon neutral.

This study is being carried out by PE International, a leader in the LCA field. Results discussed are preliminary. None of this data has yet been subject to critical review and so no claims are made with respect to ISO-conformance.

To read more about AHEC’s life cycle assessment project: Telling the Whole Story