Going Green With Redwood Decking

From: Eco Vision Sustanablilty Learning Center at http://ecovisionslc.org/going-green-with-redwood-decking/

'Green' Redwood Decking

Going Green with Redwood Decking

Summer is undoubtedly decking season.  What better way to enjoy warm weather, good food, and the company of family and friends.  Anyone that has considered adding a deck, though, knows that choosing a building material, especially one that is environmentally friendly, is not an easy decision.  We recently chronicled a variety of sustainable decking materials, all of which are quality choices to construct your deck. However, if you’re looking for something that may be even more environmentally friendly, you should consider a completely natural option; redwood.

A Truly Renewable Material

Now you might be scratching your head after reading that last sentence.  After all, redwood trees are considered an endangered species, so how can that possibly equate to being sustainable?  Well, 90% of commercial producing redwood forests have been certified as sustainable by either the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.  These certifications help ensure that redwood trees are harvested in an environmentally responsible way, that new redwoods are planted to replace any harvested, and that redwoods have a healthy habitat in which to grow.  You needn’t worry about being responsible for harvesting a millennium old giant either, as most of the old growth redwood forests left are protected and preserved for the public’s enjoyment.

So you can be assured that utilizing redwood for your decking needs adheres to your goals of sustainability.  It should also be noted that redwood decking utilizes between 167 and 196 times fewer non-renewable materials compared to other decking materials such as vinyl, composite, or plastic.  I take it petroleum isn’t very renewable?  Thankfully those other materials can be recycled at the end of their useful life, as can redwood, which just goes to further show that redwood is a remarkably renewable decking material.

Saving Energy

Another sustainable value to look for in building materials is the amount of energy needed to make a product construction-ready, or in the case of redwood – the lack of energy.  During the manufacturing process, redwood requires only 3% to 7% of the energy that vinyl or composites need.  That’s quite the energy savings!  And of the energy that is required to get redwood construction-ready, over 20% comes from renewable biomass; wood byproducts created from harvesting the tree.  However, nothing is perfect… The manufacturing of redwood decking still requires the use of fossil fuels, amounting to nearly 63% of the total energy used. To put this in a little better perspective, though, it’s worth noting that some forms of composite decking can use nearly 50 times more fossil fuel derived energy that redwood decking.  That makes redwood decking seem all the more impressive.

A Carbon Catcher

The ability to sequester and store carbon, however, is probably the crowning environmental achievement of redwood as a decking material.  Trees naturally remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and store it in their wood.  In fact, carbon accounts forabout 50% of the mass of most trees.  Considering that redwoods are the giants of the tree world, they can store a lot of carbon, with a typical redwood storing around a ton.  Interestingly, the wood continues to store that carbon even after being harvested.  This means that a normal sized deck constructed of redwood can store nearly half a ton of carbon!  In fact, redwoods remove and store more carbon than is required to harvest, manufacture, and transport the wood into decking material.  Does it get much greener than that?

Besides being the environmental stalwart of decking, redwood provides several other benefits as a decking material:

  • A very low thermal conductivity rate means that even on the hottest summer days you can walk on it with bare feet.
  • A Class B fire rating, meaning that despite being wood, it can be used in many wildfire prone areas.
  • Naturally resistant to shrinking, warping, and rotting means reduces maintenance issues or the need for any harsh chemicals normally used for prevention treatments.
  • Can last for over 50 years.
  • As a sustainable product, it is one of the most attractive looking woods available.

Redwood is certainly one of nature’s most splendid building materials. But you wouldn’t expect anything less from such a majestic tree.Share your redwood deck photos/story with us.

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David Thurnau

Community Relations at Community Green Energy
David Thurnau has a background in political science, municipal government, and agriculture with an emphasis in environmental issues.