Environmental and energy balances of wood products and substitutes


A comparative study on the ecological characteristics of wood-based products and products made of other materials was conducted. The objective of this study is to present scientifically-based information on the comparative environmental advantages of selected products containing wood against major substitutes.

The method applied is according to the international and European standards, ISO/EN
14040-43, which are also contemporary German norms (DIN). Data and information collected can be divided into the following categories:

  • LCA studies already conducted and published by different institutions;
  • research programmes carried out at the Hamburg University and the Federal Research Centre for Forestry and Forest Products, Hamburg (BFH); and
  • LCA relevant data obtained by conduction of other studies (e.g. studies on energy and CO2). These were also the basic data for the life cycle impact assessment.

The life cycle impact assessment was determined with GaBi 3.0 software program (IKP, 1999)1 and included the environmental impact categories: greenhouse effect, eutrophication, acidification and ozone creation. These impact categories are quantified and specified as:

  • Global warming potential (GWP) in kg CO2 eq.2
  • Acidification potential (AP) in kg SO2 eq.
  • Eutrophication potential (EP) in kg phosphate eq.
  • Photochemical ozone creation potential (POCP) in kg ethene3 eq.

Another very important impact category is the sustainability of resources which in the case of renewable materials is more feasible to be achieved.

For many end users there is a close link between wood products and expressions such as sustainability, environmental friendliness, low energy demand, etc. Environmental awareness has grown in recent years and not only on the end users’ side.

1 GaBi is the abbreviation for “Ganzheitliche Bilanzierung” developed by Institute für Kunststoffprüfung/Uni-Stuttgart).

2 eq. = equivalent

3 ethene = ethylene (Beyer, 1967)

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