Trees are some of our best allies in solving the climate crisis.
Frank Lowenstein, Brian Donahue and
Mr. Lowenstein is the chief conservation officer of the New England Forestry Foundation. Mr. Donahue is an associate professor at Brandeis University. Mr. Foster is the director of the Harvard Forest and the president of the Highstead Foundation.
Across North America, trees stand ready to help us solve the climate crisis. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their wood. One way to respond to a challenge from the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, to seek “bold action and much greater ambition” on climate change is to protect forests from development, improve forest management and use sustainably harvested wood to build tall buildings. This will allow us to pump carbon from the atmosphere and store it both in forests and in cities. It will also support rural economies, improve wildlife habitat and create more affordable housing.
This opportunity arises from cross-laminated timber, or CLT. First introduced in the 1990s, it enables architects and engineers to design tall, fire-safe and beautiful wood buildings. Recent examples in the United States include the eight-story Carbon12 building in Portland, Ore. and a six-story dormitory at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. In Canada, Norway, Sweden, England and Australia, even taller wooden buildings are already in use. The Mjosa tower in Brumunddal, Norway, is only 25 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.
A correction was made on Oct. 4, 2019:
An earlier version of this article included outdated information about a timber and steel dormitory at Rhode Island School of Design. The dormitory opened in August; it is no longer under construction.
A correction was made on Oct. 8, 2019:
An earlier version of this article misidentified a material used to construct the T3 building in Minneapolis. It is made of nail-laminated timber, not cross-laminated timber.