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Reuse & Long Life

Synergies: Certification and Chain of Custody; Local Wood; Manufacturing Efficiency

The long life of wood products is a cornerstone of any wood sustainability model. History shows that wood can be used and reused in a wide variety of ways, from structure to structure, over hundreds or even thousands of years. Reuse and Long Life (RLL) includes both selecting reclaimed wood products (upcycling, repurposing, recycling, etc.) and also designing buildings that favor eventual disassembly and reuse. Design for reuse will result in systems, components, connections, standard dimensions, etc. that make reusing wood easy and cost effective. With this reuse mandate, all layers of the built environment should be composed of demountable components that are likely to be reconfigured in a future where energy, materials, and carbon storage all have a high value.

Reuse & Long Life Examples

Tri-LoxThe Hudson Company , and Sawkill Lumber Co. in Brooklyn NY, Unbuilders in Vancouver, Canada, and TerraMai in Oregon, Brick + Board in Baltimore,  Good Wood in Portland.

Sustainability Benefits

A cornerstone of sustainable wood theory is that wood can store atmospheric carbon for a long time, thus reducing carbon in the atmosphere and, in turn, climate change. To do this in practice, wood building components must be given long life scenarios, including a capacity to move from one use-scenario into the next to prolong the carbon storage. Reusing wood is also associated with quality local employment and manufacturing, predominantly serving customers who are seeking sustainable and unique wood solutions. Other benefits include:

  • RLL reduces the use intensity of virgin materials and therefore demands upon forests, creating opportunities for conservation.

  • RLL reduces waste going to landfill.

  • RLL may offset carbon emissions generated in the production of new products


  • Limited availability of various species, dimensions and grades compared to primary wood products.

  • Requires unique manufacturing process.

  • Cost may be greater than conventional sources. 

  • Lack of storage space and unpredictable supply.


  • Deconstruction programs are oftentimes local enterprises, making 2nd party verification an accessible option. Personal contact with a trusted representative of a wood reuse company may suffice as verification for this pathway. There are 3rd party certification schemes for reused or reclaimed wood products, such as FSC reclaimed wood, however, the options are fairly limited. (See Verification Matrix)

How to Evaluate?

  • Level One: Tendering/request for proposal (RFP) includes specification language for reused, reclaimed or recycled wood, and wood products are sourced from RLL suppliers. Alternatively, projects using new timber can incorporate a wood reuse/deconstruction plan to qualify for this level.  (See the ​​InFutUReWood Report and See Vancouver’s Green Demolition Recycing & Reuse Plan )

  • Level Two: Use the project as a case study in a report and promote its RLL wood choices in public facing communications pieces to draw attention to the benefits of using RLL in new developments. This assessment could also involve highlighting the importance of a project's reuse/deconstruction plan. 

  • Level Three: Project experience with RLL options results in the development and adoption of a medium/long term plan to integrate RLL sourcing and design practices into broader institutional/organizational programs and policies.

Vice HQ Wood Reuse.jpeg

Example: Companies like Tri-Lox integrate reused wood into their projects, like the Vice Media Head Office garden in New York City.

Actions to Include Pathway 

  1. Create a Wood Needs Report that outlines the anticipated demands of the project.

  2. Create a matrix of reclaimed wood sources with available species, quantities, sizes, anticipated price, etc. Use the RLL resources (Reused Wood Businesses Database and the Background Document) to start the process.

  3. Work with architects/design team to design with reused wood components in place of alternative materials (use the matrix as a dynamic tool) and for future reuse.

Use in Policy Making

  1. Include 3rd-party verification standards (such as FSC Recycled Wood and EPF Recycled Wood) for secondary (i.e. recycled, reused, etc.) in wood procurement policy or specification language.

  2. Implement a circular economy strategy/policy that addresses wood products

  3. Implement a wood waste diversion program. This is important in ensuring that wood waste is managed effectively, in a manner that mitigates carbon emissions (i.e. biochar).

  4. Implement a design for reuse program for wood components or all buildings. This could be addressed via reuse standards in the local building code or reuse requirements on prefabricated components.

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