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Canadian Wood Miles Comparison

Hidehiko Fumoto

By Hidehiko Fumoto

Deputy Director and Manager Technical Services, Canada Wood Japan

April 4, 2012

In recent years Japan’s domestic wood lobby has argued that it is more environmentally friendly to source local wood products since purchasing closer to home eliminates significant transportation related CO2 emissions when compared to importing wood products from overseas. Canada Wood Japan has worked with Japanese and Canadian researchers to get to the bottom of these “wood miles” assumptions. Dr. Ikaga, a leading LCA scientist from Japan’s prestigious Keio University conducted a 3 year study on the carbon footprint of  lumber products manufactured in Japan, North America and Europe. The study included visits to the B.C. interior in 2010. Results of the CO2 emission evaluation software developed by Dr. Ikaga, found that contrary to what had been generally believed by Japanese wooden and housing industries, the results generate less cradle-to-building site CO2 emission from North American lumber than that from domestic species lumber manufactured by small sized Japanese saw mills. The results are identified in the table below. For example, the second column from the left represents a smaller sized Japanese sawmill powered by 41% biomass fuel (BF) with an emissions result of over 2,500kg-CO2 equivalent per compared to the second column from the right where a typical SPF mill from the B.C. Interior is powered by 74% wooden biomass fuel, resulting in just over 1,500kg-CO2 equivalent per unit.

The higher the amount of BF or ratio of biomass used, the lower the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In other words in the example above Canadian timber delivered to Tokyo emit about 40% less greenhouse gas emissions than domestic wood supplied by smaller Japanese domestic mills. Various models are identified above based on the varying rates of biomass utilized in the production process, however it remains clear that thanks in large part to the high percentages of biomass utilization in Canadian mills, the wood miles argument discriminating against Canadian products appears to have been safely put to bed.

Dr Ikaga’s CO2 emission software evaluation tool is scheduled to be integrated within the CASBEE standard, a most widely used LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) tool in Japan. As a result Canadian wood products will receive fair and unbiased evaluation within this new CASBEE standard

LCCM Housing Approval System Started

In related news, Japan’s housing industry is moving towards LCCM housing. Life Cycle Carbon Minus (LCCM) is a term invented recently in Japan similar to other terms used overseas such as carbon neutrality, net zero carbon footprint, Carbon Zero or carbonNZero. LCCM housing not only has the option of net zero, but may also attain negative CO2 emissions by supplying surplus solar energy back to the power grid or to power electrical hybrid vehicles. Based on a CO2 emission evaluation software, LCCM approval system started from December, 2011. Several houses have been approved since then.  The approval system is operated by Institute for Building Environment and Energy Conservation, known as IBEC, one of the public profit organizations supervised by MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism).  It is widely anticipated that MLIT will further support the advancement of LCCM and energy efficient housing in the future as a policy pillar to help alleviate Japan’s post-Fukushima energy woes.