Is Timber a Renewable Resource?
Recyclable, biodegradable and capable of storing vast amounts of carbon, timber is one of the most sustainable building materials – but only when harvested responsibly. Though typically considered renewable due to the ability of trees to regrow over a period of time, forests must be well-managed to ensure this proves true. Since 2000, the UK has experienced a 13% decrease in tree cover. Not only does deforestation contribute to climate change, but it also reduces biodiversity and erodes the soil. Clearly, replenishing and renewing our forests is a global imperative.
NORclad provides a comprehensive range of timber cladding products with excellent environmental credentials. We partner with architects, self-builders and contractors all over the UK delivering top quality results for projects of all scales.
In this blog, we explain everything you need to know about timber as a renewable material and why sustainable sourcing is vital.
What is a Renewable Resource?
A renewable resource can be defined as an economically valuable natural substance that is replaced as quickly as it is used, or within a reasonable time period. It is often considered similar to a flow resource, except here the substance is replenished with no human intervention, e.g., sunlight, wind. A renewable resource, on the other hand, may be replaced through active human intervention such as the replanting of felled trees.
Related: Examples of Eco-Friendly Building Materials
Is Wood a Renewable Resource?
Wood is technically renewable; trees that have been cut down can be replaced with new trees. However, to be truly renewable, a resource must be replaced within the same timescale it is being used up – otherwise its reserves will be reduced. That’s why timber isn’t renewable unless it is sourced from sustainable, responsibly managed forests.
With hardwood, resource-use needs to be especially well-managed, as certain species often take over 100 years or even longer to reach full maturity and become suitable for logging. Softwood is generally easier to manage, with faster growth and higher yields. Softwood species also sequester more carbon than hardwood varieties over comparable time periods. If sustainability is integral to your project, therefore, using softwood or even reclaimed timber might be the best option.
Sustainable Timber Certifications
There are a range of certifications that aim to help businesses and consumers identify sustainable timber. Below, we outline the two most important to look out for.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an NGO that promotes responsible forest management in accordance with 10 key principles. The certification confirms that the wood in question has been sourced from a forest that replenishes and replants felled trees and preserves biodiversity. The certification system covers over 200 million hectares of forest and analyses forestry procedures in line with strict environmental, social and economic standards.
PEFC stands for Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. It’s the name for a global non-profit alliance of national forest certification systems. PEFC operates as an umbrella brand incorporating a variety of certification schemes. Like FSC, PEFC allows forest managers to showcase their responsibility and consumers to choose renewable timber. PEFC chain of custody is a standard that aims to establish links at every stage of the supply chain, tracking the journey of wood from forest to finished product. This supply chain visibility and transparency is crucial to safeguard sustainability in the forest industry.
Why Use Renewable Timber
Anyone embarking on a timber cladding or construction project should ensure they only work with renewable timber to protect the natural world and preserve resources. Below, we outline 4 key impacts of non-renewable and non-sustainable forestry on the environment.
Deforestation is the process of clearing a wide area of forest. This has been done throughout human history either to obtain wood for fuel or construction, or to open up land for agriculture. In fact, the global number of trees has fallen by 46% since the start of human civilisation according to some estimates. Deforestation is driven by a range of factors, including developing global infrastructure which is making even remote forests increasingly accessible. As well as this, there is the rise of slash-and-burn agriculture. This refers to when forests are burned to fertilise the land. However, this fertility only lasts for a short period of time, after which the farmers must move on to the next patch of forest, leaving destruction in their wake.
Trees are carbon sinks, absorbing vast amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. That’s one of the reasons why it is such an environmentally friendly building material. However, clearing, disturbing or burning trees releases carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change. In fact, WWF contends that forest loss and damage are the cause of 10% of global warming. Choosing to buy only timber that is replenished with new trees means forest cover across the world is assured and continues to hold onto its carbon store.
Trees that are cut down and not replaced threaten the soil too – in fact, it’s a primary cause of soil erosion. Root networks anchor the soil and shelter it from the elements. When the land is exposed, it can be more easily washed or blown away. Moreover, the remaining plant life and vegetation is more at risk of fires. This is because the environment has been fundamentally altered from a moist, sheltered habitat to a dry, open one.
Forests contain 80% of the world’s known terrestrial plants and animal varieties. Even 1 kilometre of forest can be home to more than 1,000 species. Commercial forests that are not managed in a responsible way threaten the local biodiversity by reducing the habitats and food available. As a result, felling trees can unbalance an ecosystem by favouring different species which can go on to dominate, e.g., grazing animals and heliophytes or light-loving plants.
Renewable Timber Cladding from Sustainable Forests
NORclad is a leading UK supplier and manufacturer with over 40 years’ experience. Our products are sourced responsibly from sustainable forests primarily within the UK, Europe, Canada, Russia and New Zealand, and can be provided with full FSC and PEFC chain of custody certifications.
Explore our full range or get in touch with our friendly team for further guidance.
Read more: What are the Best Types of Sustainable Building Materials?
Read more: What is Green Architecture & Why is it Important?