Mythbusting Mass Timber

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Buildings made of mass timber – layers of wood bonded together – are gaining popularity in the US. Through working together on several projects, Atelier Ten and LEVER Architecture realized misconceptions of the building material were also growing. To promote the responsible use of mass timber, Atelier Ten and LEVER Architecture wrote the following collection of essays discussing the common myths about mass timber construction. These essays hope to promote a more nuanced discussion in the industry to truly capture the potential wood has to offer.

The essays debunk the following common myths and provide guidance for design teams to make the best sourcing choices:

Myth: Mass timber buildings are carbon neutral
Fact: Mass Timber construction can be an important pathway toward carbon neutrality, but there are other critical factors that need to be considered.

Myth: Wood is always more sustainable than concrete
Fact: Solely utilizing wood products does not automatically make buildings more sustainable. It is important to take into account material sourcing and transportation carbon impacts.

Myth: Mass timber buildings absorb carbon emissions
Fact: Trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Timber buildings hold carbon absorbed by trees, but timber buildings do not actively absorb carbon.

Myth: All wood is good wood
Fact: Wood products are only as “good” as the forestry practices associated with those products.

As sustainable design and mass timber construction increase in popularity, design teams have unprecedented power to improve forest health, biodiversity, carbon emissions and reduce the impact of climate change.


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