By Tim Reader
With the coming of the winter heating season, the Colorado State Forest Service is debuting a new tool to help builders make new buildings more climate-conscious and less dependent on non-renewable sources of energy.
The Biomass Ready tool helps builders, architects, engineers, planners, and others in the building trade to design new buildings that can incorporate biomass as a heating source.
Biomass is woody plant material, derived from the trunks and branches of trees. Firewood, for example, is a commonly known form of biomass that provides fuel for heating. Like firewood, wood chips can be used as fuel for wood-burning systems that heat buildings.
“Woody biomass is a clean and renewable alternative for heating today’s new buildings,” said Tim Reader, wood products program specialist with the CSFS. “Unfortunately, many builders are not aware of the simple design considerations that make it easy and inexpensive to incorporate a biomass heating system as part of their new building construction.”
To address this dilemma, the CSFS worked with the USDA Forest Service’s Wood Innovations Program and the Wood Education and Resource Center to develop the Biomass Ready app. This online tool walks builders through five steps to ensure new buildings can incorporate a biomass heating system.
Even if a biomass heating system is not a viable option for a builder today, this tool ensures that the new building would be able to incorporate one in the future.
“Applying some simple and low-cost design elements in a building’s design today can make it easier to transition to a biomass heating system in the future,” Reader said, “so the building is biomass ready.”
He added that biomass is a good option for buildings in the public sector, such as schools, correctional facilities or community centers. Several cities and towns in Colorado, such as Boulder, Fort Collins and Fairplay, have public buildings with biomass heating systems.
Reader noted communities that have active wildfire mitigation programs are good candidates to design buildings that use biomass as their primary heating source. By removing trees to reduce wildfire fuels on the land, these communities produce the wood, or biomass, needed for wood-burning systems.
To view the Biomass Ready app, visit www.biomassready.org.
For more information on biomass as a fuel for heating buildings, contact Reader at (970) 247-5250.