HISTORY OF CORRIM
The Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) has been organized to update and expand a 1976 report by the National Academy of Science regarding the impacts of producing and using renewable materials. The original report focused specifically on the energy impacts associated with using various renewable materials.
A variety of environmental issues and energy-related concerns have surfaced since the 1976 report was written, yet little scientific or quantifiable information regarding these issues and concerns has been gathered. Without a scientifically sound database of the environmental and economic impacts associated with using renewable materials, it is difficult for policymakers to arrive at informed decisions affecting the forestry and wood manufacturing industries. Moreover, individual industries, including those that use wood as a raw material have little information available to them that could provide a basis for strategic planning and investments to improve their environmental stewardship.
The new CORRIM reports aim to provide a database of information for quantifying the environmental impacts and economic costs of wood building materials through the stages of planting, growing, manufacturing, construction, operational use, and demolition.
MOTIVATION FOR CREATING CORRIM
Public interest in the environmental impacts of forest management has reached new heights, resulting in a demand for strategies and policies to improve environmental performance. Unfortunately, the environmental consequences of changes in forest management, product manufacturing, and construction are poorly understood, and ironically, may be detrimental to global environmental quality. This situation is greatly accentuated by an almost total lack of up-to-date, scientifically sound, product life-cycle data in the United States, particularly life-cycle data regarding wood and bio-based products.
For example, concerns about the sustainability of present forest practices have lead to changes in forest harvesting in the US. As a result, the US wood products sector has lost a substantial market share to non-wood substitutes and foreign suppliers.
Ultimately, concerns about forests and the wood produced have a direct and significant impact on the US building materials and home building industries. Harvest reductions are quickly reflected in the availability of wood, and in turn, the price of building materials. This triggers consumers to use wood from other regions of the world or use non-wood substitutes. While the economic impacts have been analyzed and reported, the environmental consequences of these changes in material flow and uses are poorly understood.
Decisions that discourage the use of wood and other non-wood building products are made each day at all levels of industry and government. While many decisions may be motivated by a desire to protect the environment, individuals making these decisions may not consider the negative consequences associated with using non-wood substitutes.
Consequences include the impacts that non-wood products can have on the environment and the impacts that management can have on forestland. The decision to avoid using wooden building materials is often counterproductive to the intent. It is critical that a better information base of quantitative data regarding the environmental impacts of a variety of building products be developed. Decisions based on quantitative or scientific information is needed to have a more positive effect on the environment and economy.
CORRIM conducts and manages research on the life cycle assessment (LCA) research on the environmental impacts of production, use, and disposal of forest products.
The intent is to create:
A consistent database to evaluate the environmental performance of wood and alternative materials from resource regeneration or extraction to end use and disposal, i.e., from “cradle to grave.
A framework for evaluating life-cycle environmental and economic impacts.
Source data for many users, including resource managers, manufacturers, architects, engineers, environmental protection and energy analysts, and policy specialists.
An organizational framework to obtain the best science and peer review.
CORRIM’s research is focused on two objectives: 1) to develop a database and modeling system for environmental performance measurements associated with materials use and, 2) to respond to specific questions and issues related to environmental performance and the cost effectiveness of alternative management and technology strategies. This database and information source will enable decision-makers to make consistent comparisons and systematically characterize the options for improving environmental performance.
By comparing across alternatives, the analyses will reveal marginal costs that contribute to marginal environmental changes and other economic impacts. This type of analysis also provides projections of future environmental performance.
- A systematic evaluation and quantification of the environmental performance of wood products and wood-using systems: Alternatives for improving energy efficiency, carbon sequestration, recycling, reuse, and sustainability with tradeoffs between environmental and economic performance measures.
- An assessment of how changes in forest culture and wood use affect forest health and the nation’s energy requirements.
- The likely impact of mandated carbon-emission reductions, carbon taxes, or tradable permit systems on forest culture and forest product use.
- A thorough examination of ways to conserve wood.
ORGANIZATION OF EFFORT
A nonprofit research corporation (CORRIM) has been established with a voting board of directors representing independent research institutions. Like the 1976 CORRIM study, a number of companies have offered support and are contributing primary data. A comprehensive research plan and methodology has been developed.
RESEARCH PROGRESS TO DATE
A Research plan was completed in 1998. Research Guidelines were developed for the Phase 1 Research plan in 2000 covering LCI information for Northwest and Southeast producing regions on structural products (lumber, plywood, OSB, LVL, glulam, Trusses). Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) information was compiled for representative steel and wood framed residential buildings in a cold climate (Minneapolis) and representative concrete and wood framed residential buildings in a warm climate (Atlanta). An interim Phase 1 report on findings was published in 2002 and professionally reviewed. Review comments were incorporated and the stages of processing extended to include building use, maintenance, demolition and disposal. A final Phase 1 research report was made available for professional review in 2004 and was published with formal reviews in 2005. A Phase 2 Research Plan was initiated in 2004 to extend the coverage to Northeast/Northcentral supply regions including hardwoods; to the Inland West supply region to understand the interaction with fire management; to a broader range of structures and geographic locations; and to include MDF, particleboard and resins as large volume non-structural uses of wood fiber.