The environmental footprint of CLT is frequently discussed as potentially beneficial when compared to functionally equivalent non-wood alternatives, particularly concrete systems. In this Chapter, the role of CLT in sustainable design is addressed. The embodied environmental impacts of CLT in a mid-rise building are discussed, with preliminary results from a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) study. We also discuss other aspects of CLT's environmental profile, including impact on the forest resource and impact on indoor air quality from CLT emissions. The ability of the North American forest to sustainably support a CLT industry is an important consideration and is assessed from several angles, including a companion discussion regarding efficient use of material. Market projections and forest growth-removal are applied to reach a clear conclusion that CLT will not create a challenge to the sustainable forest practices currently in place in North America and safeguarded through legislation and/or third party certification programs. To assess potential impact on indoor air quality, CLT products with different thicknesses and glue lines were tested for their volative organic compounds (VOCs) including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde emissions. CLT was found to be in compliance with European labeling programs as well as the most stringent CARB limits for formaldehyde emissions. Testing was done on Canadian species, as there was no U.S. supplier of CLT at the time of this writing; because VOC emissions are affected by species, this work should be repeated from products made from different species.
Classifications of volatile products that may pose health and comfort risks to occupants tend to be restricted by current regulations. It seems important to sample air from concrete, wood and steel buildings to measure the compounds present. Ideally, measurements at different time intervals could be considered to qualify and quantify contaminant dispersion dynamics over time. The project aims to identify a possible advantage of wood construction in the face of air quality, to identify the main contaminants (quantity and toxicity) and to propose sampling and measurement techniques adapted to the building environment.