Life Cycle Assessment

AHEC announces release of ISO-conformant Life Cycle Assessment report on U.S. hardwood lumber

July 2012
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is pleased to announce publication of the ISO-conformant report on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of rough-sawn kiln-dried hardwood lumber. The report, which has been prepared by sustainability experts PE International after an intensive process of data collection, analysis, and review, is the first stage of AHEC's LCA project.

View / Download the report here.

The report contains data on the environmental profile of U.S. rough-sawn, kiln-dried hardwood lumber using a comprehensive set of environmental impacts. It covers the environmental life cycle of hardwood lumber from point of harvest in the U.S. through to delivery at the importers yard in major export markets.  It provides quantitative data on Global Warming Potential, Acidification Potential, Eutrophication Potential, Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential, and Ozone Depletion Potential.  It also provides a qualitative assessment of toxicity, biodiversity, land use and land use change, and water resource impacts.  The report includes a sensitivity analysis to show how environmental impacts vary according to key factors such as species, lumber thickness, and transport distance and mode.

The report is an essential requirement for use of AHEC's LCA data in science-based assessments of the sustainability of U.S. hardwood lumber compared to other wood and non-wood materials. It demonstrates the credibility and reliability of the LCA data that AHEC will be making available to manufacturers, designers and retailers through formal Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and AHEC’s own on-line species guides and environmental profiles. It also underpins on-going collaborative work by AHEC and PE-International to develop innovative computer-based systems for modelling environmental impacts of wood material choices in product design.

Independent Critical Review Panel commends AHEC's LCA project for its 'excellent execution'

A key requirement for compliance to ISO standards for LCA is that all data is critically reviewed by an external panel of independent LCA experts.  According to the final statement of the Panel reviewing the report:

“The study has been carried out in compliance with ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. The critical review panel found the overall quality of the methodology and its execution to be excellent for the purposes of the study. The study is reported in a comprehensive manner and includes appropriate and transparent documentation of its limitations in scope".

The statement goes on to praise the broad product coverage of the report and quality of the data: 

"One of the outstanding features of the study is the broad coverage of American hardwood species. The 19 different species addressed represent more than 95% of the hardwood species harvested in US by volume and more than 95% of the wood volume exported by AHEC members. Another positive feature of the study is the substantial share of primary data collected to reach representative results for American hardwood lumber. Primary data were collected from 46 AHEC companies, representing approximately 20% of AHEC members and approximately 12% of the hardwood lumber production volume. Due to the substantial share and relevance of the primary data, the data quality is considered to be high".