Larger trees can be harvested and sold as lumber, but smaller wood residues produced by forest thinning are often burned or left to decay.
The analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December last year, notes that small trees and wood residues can be mixed with adhesives and compressed into large sheets strong enough for construction. Woody residues can also be converted in biofuel plants to create electricity or liquid fuels, and if these plants are outfitted with carbon capture technology, carbon dioxide can be diverted from the atmosphere during the process.
Cabiyo and his collaborators, including senior author Daniel Sanchez, assistant professor of Cooperative Extension in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), also propose a model scenario in which the state incentivizes the use of engineered wood in the construction of multi-unit affordable housing.
“If California starts thinning at a large scale, we’re going to be producing a lot more lumber and wood residues,” Cabiyo said. “Using that new material for building affordable housing could produce massive carbon benefits, largely because those buildings otherwise would be built with steel and cement, which have significant carbon emissions associated with them.”
— Adapted from an article by Kara Manke