A Modest Proposal for Dealing with Climate Change -- Build a New Home!

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By choosing the right materials builders, architects and home owners can reduce greenhouse gas emission by turning homes into carbon sinks.

Cellulose insulation, as an integral component of wood-intensive construction, allows consumers the opportunity to save money and benefit the environment by reducing future energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association (CIMA) announced a revolutionary new concept for creating energy efficient homes that offer the best solution to minimize energy consumption, reduce the amount of paper going to landfills and limit carbon emissions associated with construction and housing—Build Carbon Sink Homes.

“Cellulose insulation has been around and recognized for years as one of the most environmentally beneficial, energy-saving building products available,” said CIMA Executive Director Dan Lea. “New research on the benefits of wood and cellulose products in carbon sequestration are going to revolutionize how we think about constructing new houses moving forward in the face of continuing pressure to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions.”

Carbon Sinks
Carbon sinks are places where carbon is sequestered or trapped reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Mother Nature’s great carbon sinks are the vast oceans and forests that cover the planet. Plants have the most effective method of removing carbon from the atmosphere—photosynthesis. When trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into plant cells, the carbon is trapped or sequestered. This carbon will not reenter the atmosphere until the wood or plant fiber is burned or decays over time.

Other occurrences, such as burning carbon based substances to create energy, or to produce industrial man-made materials, cause carbon to be released into the Earth’s atmosphere. The result is the potential for carbon releases in excess of what the natural carbon sequestration process can consume. Governments, scientists and consumers around the world are focused on finding ways to sequester the carbon dioxide produced by humans to minimize its release into the atmosphere, which many believe is a direct cause of climate change. Some scientists are proposing to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and pump it into large underground mines to keep it from entering the atmosphere, in effect using these underground mines as carbon sinks.

Utilizing wood products, which include the naturally high amounts of sequestered carbon, is a simple and highly effective method of creating man-made carbon sinks. The role wood can play in mitigating climate change was specifically recognized as early as 2003 in the European Commission’s 6th Environment Action Programme. This stipulates that carbon sequestration should be exploited through the use of wood and wood-based products in the housing industry.

Cellulose Insulation: A Key Component Of Carbon Sink Homes
Using high percentages of wood products and cellulose insulation in the construction process can turn houses into a mini carbon sinks. A recent paper (Prospects of Carbon Neutral Housing, Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, Ottawa, CA, 2008) on a study comparing a typical wood frame home using more conventional materials (brick cladding, vinyl windows, asphalt shingles, and fibereglass insulation) and a similar wood frame house that also maximizes wood use throughout (cedar shingles and siding, wood-framed windows, and cellulose insulation) in place of the more typical materials used showed significant advantages of using high percentages of wood products. The wood-intensive house showed a substantial offset of manufacturing emissions resulting in a net carbon sink as compared to the typical house.

According to Lea, “Cellulose insulation, as an integral component of wood-intensive construction, allows consumers the opportunity to save money and benefit the environment by reducing future energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Manufacturing cellulose insulation requires very low levels of energy compared to all other insulation products. The significantly lower levels of energy required to produce cellulose insulation release a small fraction of carbon dioxide in the process compared to producing other insulation products.

“Cellulose insulation is a highly sustainable building product,” said Lea. “Its primary raw material is derived from a renewable resource. As a result, cellulose insulation is a valuable and proven part of a product manufacturing cycle that begins with cultivating and managing forests and ends with a product that utilizes recycled paper, eliminating tons of consumer waste that might otherwise add to carbon in the atmosphere.”

According to Lea, this combination of attributes, lower carbon released in its production and more carbon trapped for the life of the home makes cellulose insulation a vital component of the carbon sink home of the 21st century.

Turning Houses Into Carbon Sink Homes
Architects, builders and home owners have a unique opportunity to create houses as mini carbon sinks by utilizing wood-intensive products in the construction of homes and other dwellings. With millions of structures constructed around the world utilizing high percentages of wood products the potential for carbon sequestration is substantial. Insulating the attics, walls and floors with cellulose insulation is a critical component of wood intensive construction.

“Choosing to build wood-intensive houses that fully utilize cellulose insulation would be good for our world, “said Joe Witt, CIMA President. “This one simple decision can have huge positive consequences for the environment over the life of the structure. Applying this to millions of homes utilizing wood-intensive construction and cellulose insulation would create a substantial man-made carbon sink.”

For more information about carbon sink homes and the benefits of cellulose insulation, visit http://www.cellulose.org or call 888-881-2462.

About CIMA and Cellulose Insulation
The Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association is the trade association for the cellulose segment of the thermal/acoustical insulation industry. CIMA was founded on July 1, 1992, when the Cellulose Industry Standards Enforcement Program (CISEP) adopted new bylaws, restructuring itself as a trade association. CISEP was established in 1982 as a voluntary program to enforce and document conformance by its participants with the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s regulations for cellulose insulation and the American Society for Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) industry standards. Today, CIMA represents manufacturing companies across the country that are dedicated to the highest standards in producing cellulose insulation products as safe, affordable and environmentally effective solutions for saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

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