The Bugwood Network

Wood's Advantage

  • Steel requires three times as much energy as its wood counterpart to extract, manufacture, transport, and construct.
  • The energy efficiency of forests extends to forest products.  For example, aluminum framing requires 20 times as much energy to produce as wooden wall studs, steel studs require almost nine times more.  In general, products made from steel, glass, plastic, cement, or brick require approximately 24, 14, 6, and 4.5 times more energy, respectively, than does wood to make a final product.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming, are three times higher for steel than for a comparable quantity of wood.
  • While wood accounts for 46 percent of industrial raw materials (by weight) worldwide, it uses only 4 percent of the energy required to process raw materials into useful products.
  • Air pollution emissionssuch as sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, particulate and volatile organic compoundsare significantly higher for steel than for wood.
  • The steel wall requires 25 times more water than the wood wall, primarily at the manufacturing stage, and steel manufacturing also has a greater impact on the quality of the waste water during manufacture.
  • Inuse building materials have an impact on the environment, mainly because the choice of building materials will significantly affect the energy requirements for heating and cooling.  Wood framing in a wall is a relatively good thermal insulator compared to steel framing, which is a good conductor of heat and acts as a thermal bridge.  A steelframed 2 by 4 wall with R12 fiberglass bats has an overall Rvalue of only 6 to 6.85, while a wood 2 by 4 wall has an overall Rvalue of about 10.9.
  • Wood is the only building material derived from a renewable resource.  It is considered an agricultural crop that is harvested and replanted in a continually regenerating cycle while nonrenewable resources such as iron ore are mined on a permanently depleting basis.
  • A 1976 study by the National Research Council committee on Renewable Resources concluded that producing 1 Ton of steel requires 50.3 million BTU oil equivalent, compared to 2.9 million BTU oil equivalent for 1 Ton of softwood lumber.
  • A 1991 U.S. EPA listing of toxic substances released and transferred in the manufacturing process, indicated primary metals at 757 million pounds, fabricated metals at 103 million pounds, plastics at 195 million pounds, petroleum at 103 million pounds and wood at 38 million pounds.
  • Trees are a renewable resource.  Forest products are also recyclable and biodegradable.
  • Most wood substitute materials come from nonrenewable resources--petrochemicals used in plastics and ores used for aluminum, iron, etc.
  • We sometimes forget that wood is naturally reusable, recyclable and biodegradable.  It is the best insulator of all structural building materials, thus conserving finite fossil fuels and coal by requiring less energy to heat and cool a home built with wood.
  • One mature tree absorbs approximately 13 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
  • For every ton of wood a forest grows, it removes 1.47 tons of carbon dioxide and produces 1.07 tons of oxygen.
  • Three wellplaced mature trees around a house can cut airconditioning costs by 10 to 50%.
  • Trees and other plant landscaping can increase property values by 5 to 10%.
  • The average American each year uses the equivalent of one tree, 100 feet tall, 16 inches in diameter to fulfill wood and paper needs.
  • On average, it takes 60 years to grow a 100 foot tall tree.
  • In 60 years a tree moves about 5 million pounds, or 660,000 gallons, of water from the soil into the air.
  • The average 1,800 sq. ft. house requires about 39.5 trees to build.
  • Ounce for ounce, wood is the strongest structural material commonly used in building.
  • Under typical conditions, a 20 foot long piece of lumber will change in length only .09 inches during a year from heat or humidity.
  • A hardwood floor over a wood subfloor (approx. 1 ½ inches thick) provides thermal insulation equal to 22 inches of concrete floor.
  • Basswood, a very light weight native wood, weighs about 26 lbs. per cu. ft. when moderately dry, whereas live oak, at the same moisture content weighs about 62 lbs. per cu. ft. and will barely float.
  • All wood contains some water in common use, since dry wood can even absorb moisture from air surrounding it. Wood in a living tree contains much more water than wood in use. Typically, there is nearly as much water by weight in a tree as there is wood material. A giant redwood contains enough water to fill a backyard swimming pool.
  • There is no such thing as "dry rot". Wood will not decay if kept dry. However, there are some decay fungi that can transport water great distances through rootlike structures and destroy wood even when it is not near a source of water.
  • "Plastics" can be made from wood fibers which are dissolved and then formed into molded articles, thin sheets or fibers such as rayon.
  • Sugar, grain alcohol, wood alcohol, and burnable gas can be made from wood.
  • Many paint products are made from chemicals produced by pine trees.
  • No wood is naturally immune indefinitely to decay, regardless of exposure conditions.  Sapwood of nearly all trees has very little resistance to decay when exposed to suitable conditions, although some heartwood of certain species will resist attack by decay fungi for long periods.
  • Large wooden beams are more resistant to collapse during a fire than uninsulated steel beams of similar strength. A layer of char forms on wooden beams which insulates the inside, greatly slowing strength reduction.  Steel beams conduct heat rapidly throughout, losing much strength quickly.
  • All woods have approximately the same fuel value, in Btu per lb. Woods like hickory and oak have more fuel value per stick, because they are heavier (contain more woody material per cu. ft.).
  • Tree "sap" is the water (and a few nutrients it brings in from the soil) that is conducted up from roots to leaves.
  • Trees grown under similar conditions of temperature, humidity and soil moisture availability, all have the same basic characteristics. "Northern hardwoods" are not different from "Southern hardwoods" because of geographic location, but because of conditions of growth.
  • A tree grows taller by expanding upward at its tip; not by "pulling up out of the ground".  That means, a branch produced at 10 feet above the ground will remain at 10 feet throughout the life of a tree.
  • The age of a piece of wood cannot be determined just by looking at it.  The number of years that it took to produce the piece can be approximated by counting growth rings showing on the end, but the total age of the tree from which it came and the time since cutting cannot be determined this way.
  • Insects that attack wood can attack nearly any kind of sapwood, but certain insects "fit" certain woods better.  For instance, one species of beetle (Lyctus powder post beetles) attack hardwoods with large cells (ringporous hardwoods) like oak and ash almost exclusively.
  • Southern pine lumber produced today is not necessarily inferior to lumber cut 50100 years ago.  Because of demand for lumber and consequent high production, average log size has decreased at Southern pine mills.  Also, average growth rate (ring width) of plantation-grown pine trees is often greater than trees naturally regenerated long ago.  Faster growth means less uniformity but does not necessarily make lowerquality construction lumber.  Strength and other properties of modern lumber is usually equal to that of older lumber of similar size.  In fact, better control of lumber grading probably means consumers have a greater chance of getting lumber appropriate for a particular use than ever before.
  • Low temperature does not reduce the strength of wood.  Although very wet lumber may crack open as the water in it freezes, low temperature alone does not weaken wood.
  • To the industry, "old growth" timber means the latest growth of timber before we started to utilize the trees extensively for man's benefit; not trees left from prehistoric times.  There are no living "prehistoric" trees, although a very few living trees are some 3,500 to 5,000 years old
  • Most "old growth" trees on the U.S. West coast (redwoods) are 500 to 800 years old, while "old growth" trees in the state of Georgia would more likely be 400 year-old live oaks or longleaf pines in coastal areas.
  • Since "tree farmers" do not plow, plant, fertilize, cultivate and harvest timber on a frequent, regular basis, but instead manage timbered environments for the production of many renewable natural resources, they should be called "timber conservationists".
  • One cord of wood can produce:
    942 one-pound books; or,61,370 No. 10 (standard size) envelopes; or, 460,000 personal checks; or,89,870 sheets of letter head bond paper; or, 1,200 copies of National Geographic; or,12 eight-seater dining room tables; or, 4000 one-gallon paper milk cartons
  • Twenty cords @ 10,000 board feet is sufficient for building an 1,800 square foot house.
  • Solid wood is used to produce: lumber, flooring, wall paneling, posts, poles, piling to support buildings and bridges, barrels, tubs, shakes/shingles, charcoal, excelsior, pallets, fuelwood, railroad ties, poles, mine timbers, furniture, molding, picture frames, measuring rulers, lumber-drying spacers (stickers), scaffold boards, roof and floor trusses, window and door frames, spring supports for some vibrating conveyors, center spars for some helicopter rotors, rowboats, canoes, sailboats, motorboats, saddle parts, mobile homes/campers, some automobile bodies (e.g. the English-made Morgan Plus 4), horse-pulled wagons and buggies, coffins, animal cages, packing cases, wire reels, axles for various rolled products, walking canes, crutches, hiking staffs, tool handles
  • Composite wood products include: veneer, plywood, decorative paneling, insulation board, hardboard (Masonite), medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particle board, oriented strand board (OSB), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), parallel strand lumber (PSL and Parallam), veneer or plywood/particle board lumber and panels (COM-PLY), acoustic panels, fire-retardant excelsior-cement board panels, plywood/expanded-foam construction panels, plywood/expanded-paper-core doors, wood I-beams, laminated beams, scaffold boards
  • Dimensionally stabilized wood products are used where stability is necessary but other wood properties are desirable: Impreg (for fabrication of metal dies), Compreg (for tooling jigs, bobbins, for textile looms, cutlery handles, novelties)
  • Paper products from wood fibers include containers and sheet goods such as: corrugated containers (cardboard boxes), milk cartons, food container boxes, newsprint, writing paper, magazines, books, paper bags, punch cards, electrical insulation, file folders, sheathing papers for construction, roofing felts, felts for asphalt tile, toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, disposable clothes, catalogs, wallpaper, computer paper, adding machine/cash register paper, shipping tubes, drums and cans, egg crates, cigarette papers, bandages, thermal insulation, photographic slide holders
  • Other wood-pulp and cellulose products are made into plastics and used in many different capacities such as: rayon textile, furfural (a component of nylon), toys, lamp shades, vacuum cleaner parts, combs, housewares, telephones, portable radio cases, pipe and tubing, tool handles, electrical insulation components, car hardware, glasses frames, fabric coatings
  • Other cellulose products from trees include: photographic film, smokeless gunpowder, formic acid, levulinic acid, sorbitol, propylene and ethylene glycols, glycerine, proteins, vitamins
  • Tree-produced chemicals are used for many varied products too such as: paint solvents, odorants, bactericides, pine oils, insecticides, adhesives, flavorings (such as lemon, lime, peppermint, spearmint, nutmeg, lilac, violet, lily of the valley, rose), fabric treatments, inks, soaps, detergents, hard-floor coverings, paper sizing (slick-paper coatings), chewing gum, rosin bags, violin-bow rosin, drilling-mud thinners, leather-tanning agents, water-treatment chemicals, ethyl alcohol for disinfectant/sterilization and beverages, gasohol, synthetic rubber, Torula yeast, vanillin (vanilla flavoring) dimethyl-sulfide and dimethyl sulfozide (industrial and pharmaceutical solvents), acetic acid, activated charcoal (for especially effective filtering), molasses for animal feeds, artificial sweeteners, resin for mounting optical lenses and microscopic slides, flypaper, ointments and salves, porous plaster, maple syrup, dyes, taxol (anti-cancer drug)
  • Tree-produced nuts and fruits are healthy foods, such as: pecans, walnuts, butternuts, beechnuts, pinyon pine nuts, chestnuts, apples, oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, peaches, plums, apricots, pears, figs, persimmons, cherries
  • Decorative tree parts for special occasions include: pine cones, spruce cones, hemlock cones, Douglas fir cones, Deodara cedar cone parts (wood roses), tree boughs
  • Wood substrate for various miscellaneous products such as: Shitake mushrooms, decorative mistletoe
  • Miscellaneous wood-based products such as: animal bedding, mulch, decorative jewelry, jewelry boxes, novelty souvenirs, letter openers, writing pens, pencils, toys, models (planes, boats, cars, etc.)

The Bugwood Network and Forestry Images Image Archive and Database Systems
The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology

Last updated December 2018

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