Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) reveals the green credentials of these objects.
U.S. forests are so vast, that they cover approximately 33% of the country’s surface and are managed by selective harvesting method. This means that when architects, designers or manufacturers specify American hardwoods for their projects, the wood they use is replaced in a matter of seconds in the American forests, thanks to its natural growth. Some American hardwood species grow so quickly and in volumes so high that their growth far exceeds their utilization, which is why U.S. hardwood forests are an expanding resource.
In addition to being very abundant and in some cases underused, American hardwood is a material with an incredibly low carbon footprint. Trees, as they grow, absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it as they are harvested, transported, processed and converted into furniture, buildings, or products. Wood objects continue to retain carbon until they decompose at the end of their useful life. These factors make American hardwood an incredibly sustainable material choice with a very low environmental impact.
Each object resulting from The Workshop of Dreams has been subjected to an environmental life cycle assessment, which demonstrates all of the above in a scientific way. In addition to quantifying the different environmental impacts resulting from the fabrication of each piece – such as the carbon footprint and the acidification and global warming potentials – LCA provides a qualitative analysis of other more complicated impacts – such as biodiversity and land use.
Thanks to this analysis we are able to know three key figures on each of the products manufactured in this project:
- The carbon footprint of the product made of wood, from the forest to the final destination
- The amount of carbon dioxide equivalent it stores
- The time it takes for U.S. forests to replace the wood harvested to make it, with new growth
The carbon footprint
Two types of information are needed to calculate the carbon footprint of each object. The first is the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted when each object is made. This figure includes greenhouse gas emissions during logging, drying, processing, transportation and fabrication of the material.
The second is called “carbon offsets” and represents the amount of carbon emissions that would be avoided if the wood used to make the object was used as fuel, in place of fossil fuels that are harmful to the environment.
These two figures allow us to determine the carbon footprint of each of the objects.
The amount of stored carbon dioxide
Taking into account the volume of wood used in each object and the growth characteristics of the selected American hardwood species, an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide can be calculated that has been absorbed by the trees during their growth and is then stored (or sequestered ) by the object, once manufactured.
This figure is especially interesting and quite specific for American hardwood. U.S. hardwood forests are so large and the trees are harvested so selectively that the timber that is logged, dried and processed to make products is replaced naturally in the American forests in a matter of seconds.
Using the U.S. Forest Service Inventory and Analysis (FIA) <http://www.fia.fed.us/>, it is possible to determine the speed at which each species of American hardwood grows and, therefore, it is possible to calculate the time that it takes to replace the material used in each object with new growth in the incredible American forests. The FIA records the growth of each species of American hardwood, every year, by county, throughout the USA.