In terms of operating energy, wood has the advantage of low thermal conductivity compared to steel and concrete.1 As a result, wood buildings are easy to insulate to high standards.
However, while any wood structural system can be designed to achieve a tight building envelope, the precise manufacturing of new systems such as cross laminated timber (CLT) result in exceptional air tightness. (The added aspect of dimensional stability also ensures that the building remains airtight over time.) Wood is also proving to be a good choice for designers who want to meet the Passive House (Passivhaus) standard or create a net zero energy or net zero carbon building.
Because many factors have a greater influence on energy efficiency than the choice of structural material, a more relevant point for many designers is that wood building systems have low embodied energy. Embodied energy is the energy needed to extract, process, manufacture, transport, construct and maintain a material or product. LCA studies consistently show that wood outperforms other materials in this area.
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1 The American Wood Council answers the question, What is the thermal conductivity of wood and how does it compare to other materials?