A state-of-the-art review of energy and climate effects of wood product substitution


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Publication Details

Author list: Gustavsson, Leif;Sathre, Roger

Publication year: 2009

ISBN: 978-91-7636-692-9


In this report we address multiple aspects of wood substitution, which can be defined as “any use of wood that replaces other inputs of production in providing equivalent service or function.” We focus on wood product substitution, or the use of wood to replace other materials such as concrete, steel or bricks, rather than wood fuel substitution. We briefly describe the historical uses of wood in the context of sustainable material cycles, and we suggest that wood material may increase in relative importance in the future, due to environmental concerns and the exhaustion of non-renewable raw materials and fuels. We conduct a comprehensive literature survey of previous studies on wood substitution, including fundamental research and case study analyses, as well as reviews and syntheses of previous works. We provide a brief synopsis of each item of literature. We then describe the methodological issues involved in wood substitution analysis, including the definition of functional units and the establishment of effective system boundaries in terms of activities, time, and space. We report on a meta-analysis of greenhouse gas displacement factors of wood substitution, in which 20 separate studies were analyzed and compared to determine the range of efficiency with which using wood instead of other materials can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, we report the results of an analysis of large-scale wood substitution, in which we estimate the greenhouse gas emission reduction and energy use reduction resulting from a full substitution of wood-based materials in both single-family houses and multi-family apartment buildings at the country level (Sweden) and the regional level (EU-25).


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