When a developer builds a new home in a rural area, the first task is usually land clearing. The steps are fairly routine: a logger clears some of the land, and an excavation contractor prepares for the foundation and puts in a driveway and septic system.
When a logger is hired to clear land, some of the trees may be marketable—perhaps the land includes valuable saw logs, pulp logs, or firewood logs—or the logs may have little value. If the logs have little value, they may be chipped. If chip prices are high, the chips may be trucked to a biomass plant or a wood-pellet factory; if chip prices are low, the chips may be spread in the woods or trucked away to be disposed of elsewhere. Regardless of the value of the standing timber, though, the developer or landowner usually wants some of the land to be cleared.
For most builders, the decisions around land clearing are basically financial. But if you are a green builder, there is another factor to consider: What are the carbon consequences of this type of land clearing?
If you’re attempting to evaluate the carbon consequences of land clearing, here are some starting points for your analysis:
Assuming you’re a green builder who wants to clear land in a responsible manner, it makes sense to delay any carbon releases associated with logging. There are several ways this might be done:
Biochar is a type of charcoal. It is produced by burning wood in a kiln or an earthen dome designed to limit the available oxygen—a process called pyrolysis. Biochar is considered to be a relatively stable form of carbon—a form of carbon that is not readily released into the atmosphere.
When biochar is incorporated into soil, it can…