Is There Really a Lumber Shortage?

Do we grow enough wood to build a significant number of new wood framed buildings?

Most people have the belief the world’s forests are shrinking. They are worried about a lumber shortage. This is one of the marketing ploys frequently used by producers and builders of non-wood framed buildings.

A Yale University-led study published in March this year estimates “the world’s forests contain about 385 billion cubic meters of wood, with an additional 17 billion cubic meters growing each year.

A mere 3.4 billion cubic meters is harvested [annually], mostly for subsistence fuel burning; the rest rots, burns in fires, or adds to forests’ density,” writes Professor Chad Oliver, director of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at Yale University in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

“Swapping steel, concrete, or brick for wood and specially engineered wood equivalents would drastically cut global carbon dioxide emissions, fossil fuel consumption and represent a renewable resource. Managed properly, this can be done without loss of biodiversity or carbon storage capacity.”

Think about it…..

Only 20% of the additional wood which grows each year, is being harvested!!

And the annual harvest is less than 1% of the total volume of wood in the world’s forests.

Pole buildings offer an ability to enclose a significant amount of space, with very little use of lumber.

Today I reviewed a material takeoff for a 30’ x 50’ pole building. This particular building is in a relatively high wind speed area, a most certainly a high snow load area.

In total, the building consumed about 3600 board feet of lumber, about 2.4 board feet for every square foot (the equivalent of less than 15 inches of a 2×12)!

For sake of keeping it simple, assume all the lumber was actually full sized (not 1.5 x 3.5 inches for a 2×4). This particular pole building would use up only about 70% of a cubic meter of wood.

How does this compare to the average stick framed home built in the U.S.? Try 14,000 board feet, or nearly four times as much!!

Moral of the story – we have plenty of wood and to make what we have available stretch as far as possible, pick a pole building

One thought on “Is There Really a Lumber Shortage?

  1. While I am sure this is true for domestic lumber production, deforestation globally is definitely a big deal. Trees around the equator have the biggest impact on decreasing global temperature, and are the forests being the most rapidly depleted. Specific to house construction you are correct, but for those concerned for global environment health, it’s a bit more complicated.

    Reply

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