Photo: Cork House © Ricky Jones, David Grandorge, Magnus Dennis & Alex de Rijke


Timber construction offers excellent opportunities for a sustainable building life. The end of life of a building is also important to consider: timber can more easily be reused, repurposed or recycled than other building materials. This supports the transition towards a circular economy – where materials undergo a life cycle assessment and are repurposed after their initial service life.


Suggested Reading

Wood Information Sheets

Improving thermal performance of existing timber frame buildings

This Wood Information Sheet outlines the options for improving the thermal performance of existing timber frame buildings and summarises the important issues that specifiers should consider when implementing improvements.


Recovering and minimising waste wood

Wood and wood-based products are used in a wide range of applications, some with service lives of many decades before they enter the waste stream. However, it is only since the mid-1990s that an industry has emerged to recycle waste wood, where qualities such as a low moisture content compared with virgin wood have made recycled wood fibre popular for a variety of applications.


Life cycle costing

Life cycle costing is a decision-making technique which takes into account both initial and future costs. For buildings and structures this usually means considering not just capital costs but relevant costs in use (operational costs) such as maintenance, component replacement, utilities, managing the asset for a given period, and end-of-life costs.


Life Cycle Assessment

Many industries, rather than simply responding to increasingly stringent regulation, are now actively seeking to develop more environmentally benign products and processes. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one of the best known tools for assessing the environmental impact of activities.


Learning Resources

Module: Environmental aspects of wood

This module is a teaching aid for tutors delivering courses on the use and design of timber in engineering and architecture.


Unit: Wood waste and reuse

This unit covers the following topics: the significance of different disposal routes, re-use, recycling, and final disposal.


Unit: Reusing timber

This unit covers the following topics: reusing waste timber, recycling timber into other components, and carbon capture and release.


Magazine Articles

Delivering large-scale low-carbon education buildings (2020)

Christian Dimbleby explains how timber is increasingly used in education buildings, creating low-carbon and healthy spaces.


Timber and the resilient home (2020)

Christiane Lellig discusses the important role the timber industry has to play in building more sustainable and climate-resilient homes.


Timber Building Case Studies

City of London, Freemen’s School Swimming Pool, Ashtead, Surrey

The architect Hawkins\Brown has used timber to create an elegant cathedral-like structure for a new swimming pool, a structure which is also corrosion-resistant, resilient and carbon-neutral.


Cork House, Eton, Berkshire

Cork House is unique; it is the built form of a radical new approach to construction and sustainable design. The architects, Matthew Barnett Howland, Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton, set out to re-think a building from first principles, considering each stage of its life, including whole-life carbon, material life-cycle and design for disassembly.


Old Shed New House, Great Ouseburn, North Yorkshire

What was once a run-down shed, a container for tools and tractors, has been transformed by architect Tonkin Liu into a new house, now a container for a lifetime collection of books and art.


Maggie’s Oldham

Maggie’s Oldham is a deliberate exemplar of how to create a fresh, uplifting and caring environment while eliminating the use of harmful materials.


GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry

The GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry was designed as an exemplar of sustainability in design, construction and choice of materials, and one which would be carbon neutral over its 25 year lifetime.


Living Planet Centre, Woking, Surrey

The new UK headquarters of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is an ultra-green, energy-efficient building in Woking designed by Hopkins Architects and known as the Living Planet Centre.


Great Bow Yard, Langport, Somerset

Ecos Homes is the development subsidiary of the Ecos Trust, established in 2000 ‘to make sustainable construction the norm, rather than the exception, by 2010'. To demonstrate the principles of sustainable construction, a decision was made to build a not-for-profit sustainable development in which social and environmental values were as important as economic values.



Design life for wood and wood-based products (2018)

The use of mass timber construction can result in environmental and cost-saving advantages. This research summary examines how the service life of wood products is based on different and complex interactions between end use and interacting or degrading parameters.


What works in encouraging the take up of low carbon products and services in households? University of the West of England (2016)

A report based on rapid evidence assessment outlining the approaches which have been used to encourage greater uptake of energy efficiency and low carbon products/services amongst householders. Focusing on UK households, the report draws on evidence from the USA and Europe as well as the UK.


The role of wood waste as a source of biomass fuel in the UK (2012)

This research summary examines the key issues associated with biomass as well as the role biomass could play in helping the Government meet their proposed greenhouse gas emission targets as laid out in the 2008 Climate Change Act.


Avoiding landfill through effective wood waste disposal and a shift in product focus (2004)

This research information sheet examines how companies altering their wood waste management and disposal processes can help increase their green credentials whilst also saving on disposal costs.


Environmentally responsible construction: Community wood recycling (2004)

Integra was established in 1990 with a goal of servicing the construction needs of Sussex and the South East of England with a focus on environmental and social responsibility. In just five years after its inception, Integra diverted over 400 tonnes of wood waste from landfill for recycling and re-use.


Joinery – saving on timber waste disposal and heating cost (2004)

This research information sheet investigates how a bespoke joinery business worked with local farmers and altered their waste management process to become not only greener, but also more cost efficient.


Saving on waste disposal – through waste segregation in construction (2004)

This timber waste management case study focuses on construction company Simons Group. Formed in 1944, the group is one of the largest contractors in the country. Over a three-year period, total waste, total cost of waste and waste to landfill at their head office was reduced by 73%, 76% and 87% respectively. This research information sheet looks at the methods introduced by Simons Group that led to the reduction in waste, as well as what other businesses can do to improve their own green credentials.


The Eden project – a waste neutral strategy in construction and operation (2004)

This research information sheet examines ways in which businesses can adopt a more sustainable attitude to construction. Using the Eden Project – which aimed to recycle 55% of its construction waste – as a case study, this information sheet highlights some of the ways in which construction can reduce landfill waste.


Info from Other Organisations

Reusable and adaptable wood structures, TRADA and Wood for Good (2008)

Developed by TRADA in partnership with Wood for Good, this publication shows how a wide range of reusable and adaptable wood structures are designed and constructed.


Is carbon sequestration in timber buildings real? (2021)  

In this news article, Toby Maclean of Allt Environmental Structural Engineers presents a balanced argument on the benefits of sustainable forestry and timber in construction.


Other sustainability sub-topics

Timber as a sustainable material 

Sustainable timber sourcing

Sustainable production of timber products

Sustainable building design in the circular economy

Sustainable building processes

Sustainability and health

Sustainability – Home