Module: Environmental aspects of wood Unit: Introduction to the Life Cycle Assessment of timber

Module: Environmental aspects of wood Unit: Introduction to the Life Cycle Assessment of timber

Date Published

16 August 2022

Document Type



We are all aware that our consumption of products has an impact on the environment. In the developed world we have worked hard to be able to quantify how the extraction, manufacture and utilisation of all the ‘stuff’ that we consume or use daily impacts on the environment.

One way of assessing these impacts is to use Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

This is important for the construction sector as the environmental impacts from the materials that make up the buildings and structures we produce, their running efficiency and how we deal with them at the end of their service lives are significant.

Like all other construction products, timber and timber-based products have environmental impacts associated with them. This unit aims to introduce the concept of LCA and signpost the significant environmental impacts for timber.

Key Information

Timber is a highly versatile material that offers many environmental benefits. These include: a durable store of atmospheric carbon, low thermal conductivity (slow to transfer heat), which makes buildings thermally efficient, low embodied carbon and energy, and a source of near carbon neutral heating.

However, to capitalise on the advantages that timber has to offer, it is crucial that the timber is sustainably produced from well-managed forests. Other important factors are the
requirements for good design and build so that maximum durability is achieved, and that an appropriate source of disposal is identified at the end of life.

Case studies

The Great Barn at Harmondsworth is the largest timber-framed medieval building in the country and one of the few surviving:
a magnificent and remarkably preserved Grade I-listed building which is nearly a thousand years old.

Set at the end of a long rural track in Hampshire, Long Sutton Studio is a building which celebrates timber in its many forms:
softwood and hardwood, laminated, planed and rough sawn.