Life cycle analysis of utility poles. A Swiss case study
T Künniger, K Richter
Use of preservative-treated wood products faces increasing public and political pressure because of environmental concerns regarding the chemicals used to protect the wood. However, critics usually focus only on one single aspect of the whole life cycle of treated wood products, disregarding other environmental effects of timber utilization. To evaluate the ecological consequences of wooden utility poles (CCF/CCB impregnated roundwood and glulams) and their alternatives of reinforced concrete and steel, a life cycle assessment was conducted. Based on data from existing Swiss electricity transmission lines, a comprehensive inventory was established of all extractions from, and emissions to the environment caused by each process step. This inventory data was linked to possible environmental impacts using various aggregation methods. An evaluation was made for single poles as well as for whole transmission lines. The results show that impregnated roundwood utility poles in fact have certain environmental benefits when considered over their whole life cycle.