The effects of construction on the global climate are a growing concern worldwide. The design disciplines and the public already recognize the environmental benefits of highly efficient buildings that minimize operational energy consumption. As a result, we have been able to significantly improve and optimize the performance of environmental control and envelope systems, making net-zero-energy and plus-energy buildings possible. However, these developments highlight the need to take the next step—reducing the embodied energy content of our buildings since it now constitutes a considerable portion of their total lifetime energy use. So, where do we go from here? The answer may lie in the forest.
Recent life cycle assessment studies demonstrate that buildings made of wood require the least energy compared to those constructed from other building materials. Since a large quantity of the total material used in a building is attributed to its structural system, using wood for the primary structure can lead to significant reductions in energy consumption while curbing associated carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, innovations in engineering and the emergence of mass timber products can allow architects and designers to use wood in mid-and high-rise construction applications.
The increasing popularity of these novel approaches underscores the need for architecture students to become proficient in designing and applying wood products and timber building systems as viable, sustainable alternatives to more conventional construction methods. This skill set will be essential for future practitioners as they strive to satisfy our society’s need for less energy- and carbon-intensive buildings, making the integration of dedicated coursework into architectural education necessary.
To this end, the Timber Education Prize seeks to recognize effective, innovative courses and curricula that create a stimulating and evidence-based environment for learning about timber. The use of wood as a building material can achieve multiple design, construction, and performance objectives. Therefore, these courses should equip students with the knowledge and design skills to achieve green building goals in a range of project types. From seminars and design studios to building technology classes and structures lessons, the variety of courses offered at schools of architecture demonstrates the importance of sustainable education with renewable timber at the core.