Hi Jeff, I’m a big proponent of the bandsaw mills, I’ve spent many hours working on a Woodmizer, and done a fair share of small scale logging. Sadly, the McMansions aren’t built with low energy, locally produced products, and many building codes or local planning authorities won’t allow lumber without an inspection stamp, having totally lost their common sense. In Manitoba a US based multinational forestry products company got forestry rights to a vast area of public lands to produce OSB, eliminating small mill operators from the entire area. Governments seem to like dealing with large corporations, apparently there is more bribe money available… With cheap fuel corporations will move goods half way around the world to make an extra dollar.
Straw bale is very do-able, it just requires different building techniques, there are lots of successful buildings around. If you can end up with a fireproof, R55 - R75 building envelope, using local materials, I consider that a positive for the planet.
In response to Koen, there is now evidence that the majority of forests in north America are stressed, and have become net carbon emitters. In Manitoba there was good baseline data, the boreal forest as a whole here is losing carbon, due to stress and increased fire and disease. Probably the same is true across the northern hemisphere. Mountain pine beetles don’t kill forests, they clean up sick trees. Fires have increased for the same reasons. We can’t rely on forests to sequester carbon, they are having real troubles. Aside from which, unless we can set aside farm land to grow trees, the forested land on the planet is already doing it’s thing, which at best is a steady state, eventually it all burns or rots. I agree that bamboo or lumber locally sourced is positive, bamboo has exceptional potential, but the pressure is to increase cultivated land to meet the demands of growing population. Incidentally, without fossil fuel inputs, farming production would drop by over half, with obvious pressure on remaining forest. I believe the simplest goal with the greatest payoff to achieve is increasing the efficiency of cooking of the poorest half of the world’s population.
Regarding concrete, yes, it has a heavy carbon footprint. There are commercial rotating kilns using biomass as fuel. The bottom line is that we can’t sustainably gather energy from natural processes in a way that balances our present global lifestyle. Sweden estimated that they could maintain their vehicle fuel needs on wood for over 2 years before their forest resource would be exhausted. Never mind electricity generation, chemical processes, cement kilns, steel smelting, etc.
People forget that it used to be a lucrative commercial enterprise to send young men on ships from Nantucket on 2 year missions, to render whales for barrels of lamp oil, and lubricating oil. The lost men and ships were an acceptable cost, given how valuable the product was. Fossil fuel has changed the entire way we look at energy. We need to triage the entire system.