The steady rise of the world’s urban population will drive an immense demand for new housing, commercial buildings, and other infrastructure across the planet by midcentury. This building boom will likely escalate global carbon emissions to dangerous levels and intensify climate change — particularly if it relies on traditional materials such as concrete and steel.
But if society is able to use more wood-based products to meet this building demand, this urban growth might actually present an opportunity to mitigate climate change, according to a new paper led by researchers at Yale and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Writing in the journal Nature Sustainability
, a multidisciplinary team of researchers and architects predicts that designing mid-rise urban buildings with engineered timber — rather than relying mainly on carbon-intensive materials — has the potential to create a vast “bank vault” that can store within these buildings 10 to 68 million tons of carbon annually that might otherwise be released into the atmosphere.