Figure 4.1 Historical development of atmospheric carbonpatterns
A shift to bio-based building materials by 2060 can replenish the carbon pool and reduce atmospheric carbon
Increased investment is needed to develop regenerative methods of managing global forests and agricultural lands. The potential to redirect biomass residues into cost-competitive construction products, such as cementitious binders, bricks, panels, and structural components, could incentivize more careful and productive management. Compounding benefits include the capacity to store carbon within building materials and products, thereby reducing climate change emissions from decaying matter, forest fires and the burning of crop waste. Further, major carbon sequestration benefits could come from new cooperative approaches between builders and forest managers to increase the biodiversity of forests through the selection of functional attributes for building materials according to species (Osborne et al., 2023)
A promising avenue to alleviate pressure on timber resources is the development and use of reconstituted wood products from non-timber lignocellulosic residues from forestry, agricultural and food “waste.” Today, most of the biomass from agricultural by-products is either abandoned on land (generating greenhouse gas emissions through natural decomposition) or burned (releasing carbon directly to the atmosphere). Within forests, excess biomass residues can feed and exacerbate wildfires (Sahoo et al. 2021). Meanwhile, in urban areas, waste biomass is typically either landfilled or combusted for energy recovery, both of which are more carbon-intensive pathways than converting this waste into valuable building materials (Tripathi et al. 2019; Lan, Zhang and Yao 2022). Scaling biomass residues from agriculture requires a biodiverse and material-efficient approach to avoid worsening the negative environmental and labour impacts of monoculture agriculture.