Theater Talk
Theater Talk
Theater Talk

Using Mass Timber to Fight Climate Change

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Using Mass Timber to Fight Climate Change

Engineered wood building products can help us reduce embodied carbon in construction



We’ve made important progress over the past 50 years in reducing operational carbon emissions for our built world, mainly by creating structures that are more efficient to heat, cool, and power. But what about the embodied carbon—the CO2 that’s emitted during the extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of the building materials? Steel and concrete, while strong, economical, and easy to source, are energy-intensive. In fact, the cement in concrete alone contributes more than 8% of annual global greenhouse emissions—an amount that would make it the third largest emitter in the world if it were a country. Mass timber provides another way forward, according to Dalton Ho of Perkins+Will. Mass timber refers to wood products engineered to have strength and stability properties that rival concrete and steel, and it can be made from smaller pieces and younger wood. It reduces emissions because the wood sequesters carbon during its entire lifecycle, it’s a renewable resource, and also because it’s lighter to transport and build with—roughly one-fifth the weight of a concrete or steel structure. Ho relates the story of the 1 De Haro building, the first multi-story mass timber project in San Francisco, which Perkins+Will recently completed. Because the mass timber components could be prefabricated, construction was fast, quiet, clean, and required a small crew. And on the structure and enclosure alone, they saved over 3,600 metric tons of CO2. There are important issues to consider in terms of how the wood is sourced, but mass timber provides an important approach as we look to meet the growing demand for buildings while addressing the climate crisis caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

About the speaker

Dalton Ho is a regional sustainable design leader for Perkins+Will, where he brings extensive experience managing projects with advanced resilient and regenerative design strategies. Ho leads Perkins+Will’s embodied carbon working group and works with stakeholders to identify holistic, practical, and actionable goals across a variety of projects. He holds degrees from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.     

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