Housing starts and the associated wood products carbon storage by county by Shared Socioeconomic Pathway in the United States


Harvested wood products found in the built environment are an important carbon sink, helping to mitigate climate change and their trends in use are determined by economic and demographic factors which vary spatially. Spatially detailed projections of construction and stored carbon are needed for industry and public decision making, including for appreciating trends in values at risk from catastrophic disturbances. We specify econometric models of single family and multifamily housing starts by U.S. Census Region, design a method for their spatial downscaling to the county level, and project their quantities and carbon content
according to the five Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). Starts are projected to decline across all scenarios and potentially drop to below housing replacement levels under SSP3 by mid-century. Wood products carbon stored nationally in structures in use and in landfills is projected to grow across all scenarios but with significant spatial heterogeneity related to disparate trends in construction across counties, ranging from strong growth in the urban counties of the coastal South and West to stagnation in rural counties of the Great Plains and the northern Rockies. The estimated average annual carbon stored in wood products used in and discarded from US residential housing units between 2015–2070 ranged from 51 million t CO2e in SSP3 to 85 million t CO2e in SSP5, representing 47% to 78% of total carbon uptake relative to uptake by all wood products in the United States in 2019.

  • Citation: Prestemon, Jeffrey P.; Nepal, Prakash; Sahoo, Kamalakanta. 2022. Housing starts and the associated wood products carbon storage by county by Shared Socioeconomic Pathway in the United States. PLOS ONE. 17(8): e0270025-. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0270025.
  • Posted Date: August 12, 2022
  • Modified Date: August 15, 2022
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