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Which Do You A-Door? Comparing the Energy Needed to Make Wood and Steel Doors

This article is from Issue Bioenergy - Vol. 9 No. 1.

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The Forest Products Laboratory, located in Madison, Wisconsin, is a place where scientists work to develop wood products for human use. The scientists at this laboratory develop processes for making wood products that use as few natural resources as possible. One of the wood products they developed was a wood door. The scientists believed that wood doors and steel doors provide the same utility to a consumer. If that is the case, they wondered which door would use less energy and create less waste up to and including the manufacturing process. 

Welcome to the Bioenergy edition

Note to Educators

Bioenergy Lesson Plan

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Life Science
  • People and Science
  • Technology and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Forest and Grassland Use (Educators)
  • Using Forests (Students)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Alaska
  • Forest Products Lab
  • Intermountain
  • International Institute of Tropical Forestry
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Pacific Southwest
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Southern
  • Southwestern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
When scientists want to compare things, they must use a common language. In this research, the scientists wanted to compare the environmental impact of making two different kinds of doors. The scientists went to the International Organization for Standardization (stan dürd uh za shun) for help. This organization creates standards for a wide variety of products and processes. The organization reported that two products can be compared if they provide the same utility to a consumer. The scientists decided that they could compare two different doors if both of those doors could be used to enter a house. Based on this standard, could you compare the utility of a plastic and metal fork? Why or why not?
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Every product you buy was produced using energy. Every process used to create products also creates waste. In this research, the scientists wanted to compare the amount of energy used and amount of waste created in the manufacture of two different types of doors. This kind of comparison is called a lifecycle inventory (figure 1). Most life-cycle inventories include the amount of energy used and waste created from when the raw materials are gathered to make the product to when a consumer no longer wants and disposes of the product. In this research, the scientists were interested only in the energy used and waste created until the time the doors were ready to be shipped to a store.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Cycles