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Life Cycle Impacts and Benefits of Wood along the Value Chain: The case of Switzerland

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Suter Florian, Steubing Bernhard, Hellweg Stefanie,
Project Life Cycle Management of wood in Switzerland: methods, tools and environmental decision support
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Industrial Ecology
Title of proceedings Journal of Industrial Ecology
DOI 10.1111/jiec.12486


Sustainable use of wood may contribute to coping with energy and material resource challenges. The goal of this study is to increase the knowledge of environmental effects from wood use by analyzing the complete wood value chain from a systemic perspectiveof all wooden goods produced or consumed in Switzerland. We start from a material flow analysis (MFA) of the current wood use in Switzerland. Environmental impacts related to the material flows are evaluated using life cycle assessment (LCA) based environmental indicators. Regarding climate change, we find an overall average benefit of 0.5 t CO2-eq per m3 wood used. High environmental benefits are often achieved when replacing conventional heat production and energy consuming materials in construction and furniture. The environmental performance of wood is, however, highly dependent on its use and environmental indicators. To exploit the mitigation potential of wood we recommend to (i) apply its use where there are high substitution benefits like the replacement of fossil fuels for energy or energy intensive building materials, (ii) take appropriate measures to minimize negative effects like particulate matter emissions, and (iii) keep a systemic systems perspective to weight effects like substitution and cascading against each other in a comprehensive manner. The results can provide guidance for further in depth studies and prospective analyses of wood use scenarios.