Column: The lessons of LCA

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David Venables

David Venables David Venables is European Director for the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). David is an acknowledged expert on wood markets and the uses and applications of hardwood species and products. He is an experienced speaker, frequently making presentations on American hardwoods and other wood related topics, to trade, manufacturing and architectural audiences worldwide.
The whole AHEC experience with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has taught us the power and importance of the critical review process. It is not just about collecting data to better understand and articulate our environmental impacts, it is also about being believed. We have found the critical review process robust, thorough and very challenging. But, this endorsement has now given us the added confidence to communicate clearly the environmental advantages our material has. We have learnt that formal LCA's carried out under the framework of the ISO standards do not allow sweeping statements or generalities about climate change mitigation and carbon footprint. And, if done properly, they can provide a level playing field for genuine comparison and informed decision making.

The challenge now is to make sure the timber sector does not get left behind. We cannot just assume we have the best arguments and be complacent. We must all throw our weight behind this potentially favourable development, and flood the market with fresh and accurate data of the highest quality and information that is thoroughly and independently audited (critically reviewed). Then we really will have the authority to demand change. We are under no illusion that the current shift towards wood in construction is being driven by cost, performance and technological development. But we also believe environmental considerations will in time become just as important a demand driver. By taking a lead now we (wood industries) will have an opportunity to shape the policies that will drive sustainable design and construction in the future.
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