Can timber in construction ever be sustainable?

treating timber wood

Timber is one of the most environmentally friendly materials available on the market, if it has been sustainably sourced. Timber has been made a popular material among sustainability champions within “green” construction. While timber has been used in construction for centuries, it is now possible to construct complete buildings out of sustainable timber. All timber products are popular these days, including furniture. This is mostly due to our ability to look after them now, with things like timber furniture polish, so that it lasts longer.

What is sustainable timber?

timber oil for decksUsing sustainable timber refers to wood that has been brought from well-managed forests that are being replenished continuously. There needs to be insurances that no damage has been done to the surrounding environment or the native fauna and flora. Two certificate schemes, a programme for the endorsement forest certification and the forest stewardship council assure that all the wood-based products have come from sustainable sources.

Timber has a lower, embodied carbon footprint when it is compared to different construction materials. Grey timber is particularly good, if you use water repellent oil to keep it safe for longer. Due to the reduction in processing that is required, when the accounting for the different processes is required when creating structural timber products. 

Offers low embodied energy

Sustainable timber has the lowest embodied energy (the energy used in the processing, production and transport) than other building materials like aluminium, steel and concrete. Often due to the timber requiring minimal processing compared to the others.

The embodied carbon that is in a standard building will account for between thirty to fifty per cent of the entire carbon footprint, which can make a huge impact. The processing that is used to get the timber ready for construction emits less carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and sulphur dioxide along with other particulate matter, VOCs that the competing materials.

Durable and easily maintained

Sustainable timber that is used in construction is highly durable. Structures that are well made have lasted for centuries, just like the timber frames of Tudor buildings. The wood is cheaper to maintain, unlike the other materials, and you can change its colour over time if you wish.

Timber is a strong material that is used often in construction due to its good structural properties. Wood is suitable for anything up to eight stories, but with new innovations coming out, it will soon be allowed to go higher. Timber has a good fire resistance as it burns more predictably than steel, which is prone to collapse after it has reached a flashpoint.


Using timber in construction remains sustainable. It is a natural product, so it can be reused and recycled for different purposes. Native timbers are better suited due to its inherent durability, character and strength.
Did you know that recycled timber from deconstructed bridges, railway lines, warehouses and wool stores can all be found at premium prices in the market, as it remains sustainable?

Note that timber is only sustainable if the products haven’t been treated in chemical factories. This is because it can be reused, recycled and even repainted if it’s been tampered with. Being eco-friendly matters to all of us, and we all try to do our part for the environment. Even the construction businesses and workers do what they can, when they are able to. Keeping timber sustainable is just a small part of the construction industry, but it’s very important.