Last year, the world produced 3.6 billion tons of cement—the mineral mixture that solidifies into concrete when added to water, sand and other materials—and that amount could increase by a billion tons by 2050. Globally, the only substance people use more of than concrete, in total volume, is water.
— Quote from the article “Green Cement”
That was such a strong opening paragraph, I had to steal it… I won’t be quoting too much else from that article, so I suggest folks go read it to learn about the new technologies out there that are being explored in an effort to “green cement.” I will tell you (spoiler alert) that so far, they haven’t had a tremendous success…
The wood industry regularly talks about how green it is, with folks saying, “We’re greener than cement (or steel or...).” We certainly are, and this week and next, I’m going to provide some statistics, figures, and stories to help you with your customers.
• The cement industry produces 4-5% of global man-made CO2 emissions, of which approximately 50% is from the chemical process, and 40% from burning fuel. (Exact figures will vary on the process and country—in some cases, the emissions from energy could be higher than the chemical processing.)
• The amount of CO2 emitted by the cement industry is nearly 900 kg of CO2 for every 1000 kg of cement produced.
• Wood floors have cleaner manufacturing. Steel products give off 24 times the amount of harmful chemicals than wood product manufacturing. Concrete emits a great deal of carbon dioxide. The production of steel walls requires the use of 23 times more water than wood production.
• Wood requires less energy to manufacture. Brick takes four times more energy, concrete six times and steel 40 times more energy to manufacture than wood.
• Wood actually conserves energy. It takes 15 inches of concrete to equal the insulation qualities of just one inch of wood.
• After decades or even centuries of use, wood buildings can be easily adapted or deconstructed and reused, which means they can continue to store carbon indefinitely. (More on reclaimed wood in upcoming blog posts.)
• Wood products, even when you consider emissions from manufacturing, can still have a negative carbon footprint. A University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture study suggested that solid hardwood flooring can have a minus 1.8 carbon footprint. That is, it stores more carbon then it used.
• Finally, here’s a great quote from ScienceDaily.com to use at your next event: “…the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere could be quadrupled in 100 years by harvesting regularly and using the wood in place of steel and concrete that devour fossil fuels during manufacturing, producing carbon dioxide. ‘Every time you see a wood building, it's a storehouse of carbon from the forest. When you see steel or concrete, you're seeing the emissions of carbon dioxide that had to go into the atmosphere for those structures to go up,’ said Bruce Lippke, University of Washington professor emeritus of forest resources.”