30 March 2022

New Wood Information Sheet: Carbon and timber in construction for building designers

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BM TRADA is pleased to announce the release of the brand new Wood Information Sheet (WIS) Carbon and timber in construction for building designers, which provides a timely and in-depth review of all the complex issues around the subject of carbon in relation to timber buildings.


Timber is largely made from carbon: its use in construction results in both carbon storage and carbon emissions. Understanding how to manage carbon emissions and calculate embodied carbon helps to maximise the environmental benefits of building with timber.


Carbon dioxide (CO2), along with other greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere, leads to increasing global temperatures. The current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest it has been for at least two million years and has increased by 12% in the first 20 years of the 21st Century alone. Even small rises in global temperatures can have catastrophic effects on the climate and ecosystems.


This new Wood Information Sheet (WIS), prepared by the BM TRADA publications team with the assistance of Toby Maclean from Allt Environmental Structural Engineers and the BM TRADA technical timber team, discusses carbon emissions and carbon stores in relation to timber in buildings, as well as the complex relationship between timber in the built environment and the forests it was sourced from.


It also provides methods to minimise carbon use and to maximise the carbon store, and explains procedures for calculating the embodied carbon in a building according to a life cycle assessment (LCA).


Key points:

  • Carbon emissions from buildings are categorised as embodied carbon or operational carbon
  • Calculating a building’s lifetime carbon emissions follows the principles for life cycle assessments (LCAs) set out in BS ISO 14040
  • It is almost always a lower-carbon alternative to start with an existing building and to retrofit it than to build new
  • The objective for a new timber building is to delay the emission of the carbon stored in the building for as long as possible
  • To minimise carbon emissions, build efficiently and choose materials that result in lower overall embodied carbon
  • The maximum size the carbon store in the built environment can grow to is limited by the amount of timber that is introduced to it and the average service life of that timber



  • Carbon and timber
  • Carbon emissions from buildings
  • Calculating whole-life carbon for a building
  • Minimising built environment carbon emissions
  • Carbon stores
  • The carbon impact of timber in construction
  • Whole-life carbon emissions and global temperature increases
  • Transport emissions (LCA module A4)
  • End-of-life emissions (LCA modules C1–C4)


Members can download a free copy of the Wood Information Sheet Carbon and timber in construction for building designers. WIS sheets are available to non-members too – purchase a PDF or a hardcopy at the Bookshop.