Fighting Climate Change by Turning Buildings into Carbon Sinks with Timber Bamboo
We know that we cannot slow climate change without both removing carbon from the atmosphere and decarbonizing buildings. These two needs turn our focus to the world’s standing wood forests and to the most reliable carbon removal technology, photosynthesis. But a careful look at wood resources as a key path forward shows critical limitations given the regeneration rate of forests. Bamboo, which produces superior structural fiber many times faster than wood, overcomes these limitations. We analyzed the limitations of wood in our recent publication: Our Green Down Payment: Flighting Climate Change by Turning Buildings into Carbon Sinks with Timber Bamboo. Our analysis of the five limitations was presented to the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations.
Climate analysts recognize that the built environment is the biggest source of carbon emissions when the construction and operations of buildings are combined. Cross-laminated timber and wood, in general, are seen as essential substitutes for chronically carbon-intense concrete and steel. Using US Forestry Service data, BamCore showed in our previous publication, Carbon Farming with Timber Bamboo, that timber bamboo has a 5-6x advantage over wood as a carbon-capturing solution cuts build time, lowers skilled labor needs, shrinks job site waste, reduces sheetrock, lowers operating costs, and more.
The new report, Our Green Down Payment, goes further and looks at the limitations of space and harvest efficiency that wood forestation projects face. Climate analysts expect competition for land from; other climate removal technologies, food production, and population growth will significantly limit forestation projects as a carbon sequestration tool. Research done by Quantis International shows that timber bamboo requires 78% less land to produce the fiber necessary to build a typical single-family house.
Moreover, harvesting and milling wood for incorporation into buildings, where the tree carbon can be stored long-term, is a surprisingly low recovery process resulting in only 30-60% of the structural fiber being captured, less than our experience with bamboo.
Wood and bamboo grow very differently. As a result, some timber bamboos can be twice as stiff or strong as wood. When the superior load-bearing capacities are engineered into the framing of a building, less material can be used to bear the same structural loads. Our analysis shows that selected timber bamboo species can be significantly stronger and stiffer than typical wood framing species.