My family has been raised on wood. We are sheltered by it in our timber-frame home, we chop it and burn it in our wood-burning fireplaces to keep us warm, and we spend much of our free time outdoors walking under the canopy of forest that neighbours our house.
We dine, welcome friends and family, and engage in raucous political discussions at the beautiful 4’ x 10’ fir table that my partner-in-adventure-and-all-things-domestic built by hand (with a little help from his very handy father).
And we rely on wood for the food we serve on that same memory-making table. Like more than 100,000 BC families, the bulk of our livelihood comes from the province’s forests. After more than two decades working in the lumber industry, my partner has developed an absolute obsession for trees and wood. This has led to numerous embarrassing situations: like when hosts we barely know find him on his hands and knees on their entryway floor caressing their Brazilian-cherrywood floors, or when this normally tactful man openly criticizes a friend’s new PVC deck.
Like any good evangelist, my guy has been spreading his “wood is good” message to anyone who will listen. And now, it seems, the world has heard it.
Today is the United Nation’s International Day of Forests.
So, in honour of my wood-loving partner – and of all the magnificent cedar, fir, arbutus and 100,000 more species of trees on this planet – I thought I would share a few amazing characteristics and facts about trees, forests and wood.
- Trees have been around for 370 million years.
- They can live for millennia – the world’s oldest living tree is thought to be almost 10,000 years old.
- The estimated three trillion mature trees in the world make up about one-quarter of all living plant species.
- Trees are true multitaskers. They provide shade, shelter, building materials, fuel, fruit and more.
- Almost 900 million people around the world (including one in my house!) earn their living from wood.
- Wood provides 45 percent of the globe’s current renewable energy – more than solar, hydroelectric or wind.
- Engineered wood products can be as strong as concrete or steel, and incredibly fire resistant. UBC’s new Brock Commons student residence, set to open in September, will be the world’s tallest mass-timber building, at a remarkable 18 storeys!
But what my partner wants you to know more than anything is that lumber is the world’s greenest building product.
Not only is it a renewable resource – managed forests grow back in 60-100 years in BC – but trees are also carbon sinks. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store carbon in their tissues. One cubic meter of lumber stores one tonne of carbon dioxide. Building with wood means you sequester that carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. Conversely, steel and concrete construction creates about eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Logging has had a bad wrap in this province for decades, some of well deserved. But thanks to the protestations of the environmental movement, now BC’s industry is one of the most progressive and sustainable in the world.
Still not convinced of the benefits of wood? In this Ted Talk BC architect Michael Green reveals how wood construction may be one our best weapons against climate change.
Check it out and join the Wood is Good revolution.