USDA Forest Service Reports on Life-Cycle Assessment of Redwood Lumber

The LCA and accompanying Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) point to sustainable future for redwood as a building material

Humboldt Sawmill Co., LLC logo (PRNewsfoto/Humboldt Sawmill Company, LLC)

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Oct 26, 2020, 17:18 ET

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SANTA ROSA, Calif., Oct. 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — USDA Forest Service researchers recently published FPL-RP-706, October 2020 entitled Cradle-to-Gate Life-Cycle Assessment of Redwood Lumber in the United StatesLife-cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life-cycle analysis) can be thought of as an environmental audit where all of the environmental impacts from raw material extraction and processing (cradle) through manufacture and preparation for distribution (gate) are scientifically measured.  Primary data on forestry operations, transportation of logs from forests to the sawmill and lumber production, including sawing, drying and planing was collected from three major redwood lumber mills, including Humboldt Sawmill Company, LLC and Mendocino Forest Products Company, LLC, representing 66.6% of the total production volume of the redwood lumber industry in 2017.  The authors collected primary data according to Consortium for Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) research guidelines.  Study methodology followed the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040 and 14044 standards to conduct an LCA study.

Key findings of this study focus on energy consumption, biogenic carbon and global warming potential.  Because of large renewable energy inputs including electricity and heat from cogeneration of mill residues, the environmental impact of redwood lumber production is quite low.  In fact, 69% of total primary energy used in redwood lumber production comes from renewables, especially biomass.  Despite the energy used in milling processes, kiln-drying, etc., fully 76% of the kilowatts produced were exported to the commercial grid.  The low cumulative energy consumption for redwood lumber production occurs because of the relatively minimal use of kiln-drying.

In terms of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, this study showed redwood lumber stored about 12 times the total GHG emissions released during cradle-to-gate product manufacturing.  CO2 uptake from the atmosphere into redwood trees used to make redwood lumber and the storage of the resultant carbon in long-lived redwood lumber is a substantial environmental attribute because this carbon is sequestered or kept from the atmosphere.  This study showed substantial reductions in environmental profiles compared with the previous study in 2013 because of the usage of heat and electricity from cogeneration and reductions in electricity usage in the sawmills.

The results of this study have been used to develop a redwood lumber Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) which provides verified data on environmental performance in a standardized business-to-business format. EPDs are increasingly requested by architects and specifiers as well as being a commonly required document by government regulators. 

Source material for this important work may be found as follows:

Cradle-to-Gate Life-Cycle Assessment of Redwood Lumber in the United States
Sahoo, Kamalakanta; Bergman, Richard. 2020. Cradle-to-gate life-cycle assessment of redwood lumber in the United States. Research Paper FPL-RP-706. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 39 p. October 2020
https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplrp/fpl_rp706.pdf 

Redwood Lumber Environmental Product Declaration
American Wood Council, July 1, 2020
https://www.awc.org/pdf/greenbuilding/epd/AWC_EPD_RedwoodLumber_20200605.pdf

Redwood Trees―Building a Sustainable Future
USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Lab Notes, May 19, 2020
https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/labnotes/?p=27427

About the Mendocino Family of Companies

The Mendocino Family of Companies include Allweather Wood, Humboldt Redwood Company, Humboldt Sawmill Company, Mendocino Forest Products, Mendocino Redwood Company.  

In aggregate Mendocino Companies owns 440,000 acres of Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC® C013133) certificated timberland, constitutes the largest waterborne wood treater in the Western USA, and is the largest producer of redwood lumber in the world. Humboldt Sawmill produces large timbers and custom cuts in redwood and Douglas-fir for “program” business.  Additionally, Mendocino Companies owns and operates a 25-megaWatt biomass Cogen plant and largest wood pellet plant in California.

For more information, please visit www.MendoCo.com.

SOURCE Humboldt Sawmill Company, LLC

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