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The Right Timber Choice to Meet Changing Building Code Requirements for Embodied Carbon

Readily available data on a product’s carbon impact is imperative to meeting modern building standards.

With sustainability and environmental concerns at the forefront of today’s building decisions, tropical hardwoods are becoming increasingly difficult to specify due to building standards restrictions, which require carbon accounting over the lifecycle of a product.

Both of the forestry industry’s main certification standards systems, Forest Stewardship Council® Certified (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) collect data on forestry operations, but neither requires certificate holders to measure the carbon impact of such operations or to reduce emissions within these.

For this reason, simply choosing certified timbers is not enough to reach many of the standards set out by building codes, or to do your part for the climate.

According to a 2020 report by Rupert Oliver of Forest Intelligence Ltd. for IDH-Sustainable Trade Initiative: ‘The reality is that calculating an accurate carbon footprint for certified timber is near impossible—there simply isn’t enough data. Certification frameworks don’t currently collect the data needed to facilitate carbon accounting, and there is a great deal of uncertainty involved in scaling existing one-off carbon assessments of timber operations to a global scale.’

From 2024 and 2025 onwards, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) requires mandatory disclosure of embodied carbon for new buildings in New Zealand. Barring any further changes by the current government, this will be followed by a phased introduction of carbon emissions caps for new buildings.

The MBIE recognises an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) as the best quality data available to ascertain embodied carbon levels. An EPD is a certified, independently verified assessment of a product’s environmental impact, and is the main outcome of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which pulls together all the data on a product’s impact from manufacturing through to disposal.

Making data on our products readily and clearly available is an important part of Abodo’s ethos, which is why our current EPD report is easily downloadable via our website. Abodo’s products come from sustainably managed New Zealand plantation forests. Paired with the use of quick-growing timbers, thermally modified for longevity and stability, this means our product lasts through weathering and aging without needing to be replaced or refinished often.

We also use low VOC glues and finishes and have a continuing focus on waste reduction through our manufacturing process by recycling and reusing offcuts. Our thermally modified Vulcan products were the first cladding timber to be certified carbon-negative, and studies have shown that the use of our products can make a significantly positive impact on a building’s LCA.

Choosing a timber that treads lightly on the planet while also meeting building standards is a win-win in our books, and this can only be done by trusting the research and data that backs a product. Look for a current EPD to be sure you are specifying the right timber for your New Zealand buildings from this year forth.

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Just checking you’re heading to the right place

Make sure you get the right information about our carefully crafted timber products by visiting your local Abodo website.