Letters
| July 29, 2021

Opposing Pilot Program on Increased Use of Mass Timber in Military Construction

We have significant concerns with policies and programs that tend to promote specific building materials. Engineers and construction professionals should make decisions about which materials to use to meet the codes, standards and specifications of the project. It is inappropriate for Congress to stack the deck for or against specific building materials: Congress should not pick winners and losers and should not promote policies or programs that prefer one building material over another. Mass timber is often promoted as a sustainable building material. However, it is important to note that there is no environmental superiority of mass timber construction over concrete construction. The embodied carbon of a mass timber building is comparable to the embodied carbon building when the emissions footprint of logging, processing, and shipping are included in the calculations. Compounding mass timber’s emissions profile is the opportunity costs of the harvested timber as carbon storage; live three store three times as much carbon as wood products. It is important to recognize the carbonation of in-service concrete buildings as in place concrete absorbs carbon over the life of the building. Concrete can be recycled, further sequestering carbon during its exposure and subsequent life cycle.