New Tool Helps Designers Measure Lifecycle Impacts of Wood

New Tool Helps Designers Measure Lifecycle Impacts of Wood

Insight August 11, 2021

As mass timber continues to ascend both figuratively and literally across the built environment, the methods for how we analyze wood’s carbon lifecycle impact on the environment are also rapidly evolving. ZGF, in collaboration with theUniversity of Washington’s Applied Research Consortium, has developed a wood life cycle calculator specifically geared toward giving the design community a window into the trickier aspects of wood lifecycle assessment (LCA).

Called UpStream, the spreadsheet tool allows designers to evaluate considerations around biogenic carbon storage, forest carbon sequestration, and custom end of life scenarios. This level of engagement will give designers, engineers, and contractors new insights into the carbon impacts of their choices: from decisions critical to design and construction, like sustainable wood procurement, to calculating the carbon impact of disassembling and re-using mass timber beams and columns.

直到现在,原子能委员会专家interested in sourcing the most environmentally responsible wood have been constrained by current LCA standards that don’t track the carbon in the forest and tools that lack of transparent documentation around things like end-of-life assumptions, and the inability to change key inputs within certain LCA tools.

Currently in public beta launch, UpStream is a fully open-source tool designed for the LCA community to use, take ownership of, and to improve the tool’s calculation methods. Future research with the University of Washington and an incubation with the Carbon Leadership Forum (commencing fall 2021) will focus on reviewing forest carbon factors, defining impact intensities of different forest practices, expanding interpretations for wood salvage’s impact boundary, and evolving the interface into an online webtool.

Given the scale of our climate crisis, and the AEC industry’s substantial carbon impact, it’s critical for design and construction professionals to more clearly understand how their choices affect a project’s sustainability profile. UpStream will play a vital role in helping professionals better understand the lifecycle impacts of wood and communicate its full range of benefits.

To access UpStream public beta version 1.0 and video tutorials, visit:

For any questions or to provide feedback on the tool,email us.