As the population continues to grow in China’s urban settings, the building sector contributes to increasing levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Concrete and steel are the two most common construction materials used in China and account for 60% of the carbon emissions among all building components. Mass timber is recognized as an alternative building material to concrete and steel, characterized by better environmental performance and unique structural features. Nonetheless, research associated with mass timber buildings is still lacking in China. Quantifying the emission mitigation potentials of using mass timber in new buildings can help accelerate associated policy development and provide valuable references for developing more sustainable constructions in China. This study used a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach to compare the environmental impacts of a baseline concrete building and a functionally equivalent timber building that uses cross-laminated timber as the primary material. A cradle-to-gate LCA model was developed based on onsite interviews and surveys collected in China, existing publications, and geography-specific life cycle inventory data. The results show that the timber building achieved a 25% reduction in global warming potential compared to its concrete counterpart. The environmental performance of timber buildings can be further improved through local sourcing, enhanced logistics, and manufacturing optimizations.
Mass timber products are growing in popularity as a substitute for steel and concrete, reducing embodied carbon in the built environment. This trend has raised questions about the sustainability of the U.S. timber supply. Our research addresses concerns that rising demand for mass timber products may result in unsustainable levels of harvesting in coniferous forests in the United States. Using U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data, incremental U.S. softwood (coniferous) timber harvests were projected to supply a high-volume estimate of mass timber and dimensional lumber consumption in 2035. Growth in reserve forests and riparian zones was excluded, and low confidence intervals were used for timber growth estimates, compared with high confidence intervals for harvest and consumption estimates. Results were considered for the U.S. in total and by three geographic regions (North, South, and West). In total, forest inventory growth in America exceeds timber harvests including incremental mass timber volumes. Even the most optimistic projections of mass timber growth will not exceed the lowest expected annual increases in the nation’s harvestable coniferous timber inventory.
Fire safety remains a major challenge for engineered timber buildings. Their combustible nature challenges the design principles of compartmentation and structural integrity beyond burnout, which are inherent to the fire resistance framework. Therefore, self-extinction is critical for the fire-safe design of timber buildings.
This paper is the first of a three-part series that seeks to establish the fundamental principles underpinning a design framework for self-extinction of engineered timber. The paper comprises: a literature review introducing the body of work developed at material and compartment scales; and the design of a large-scale testing methodology which isolates the fundamental phenomena to enable the development and validation of the required design framework.
Research at the material scale has consolidated engineering principles to quantify self-extinction using external heat flux as a surrogate of the critical mass loss rate, and mass transfer or Damköhler numbers. At the compartment scale, further interdependent, complex phenomena influencing self-extinction occurrence have been demonstrated. Time-dependent phenomena include encapsulation failure, fall-off of charred lamellae and the burning of the movable fuel load, while thermal feedback is time-independent. The design of the testing methodology is described in reference to these fundamental phenomena.
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) used in the U.S. is mainly imported from abroad. In the existing literature, however, there are data on domestic transportation, but little understanding exists about the environmental impacts from the CLT import. Most studies use travel distances to the site based on domestic supply origins. The new Adohi Hall building at the University of Arkansas campus, Fayetteville, AR, presents the opportunity to address the multimodal transportation with overseas origin, and to use real data gathered from transporters and manufacturers. The comparison targets the environmental impacts of CLT from an overseas transportation route (Austria-Fayetteville, AR) to two other local transportation lines. The global warming potential (GWP) impact, from various transportation systems, constitutes the assessment metric. The findings demonstrate that transportation by water results in the least greenhouse gas (GHG) emission compared with freight transportation by rail and road. Transportation by rail is the second most efficient, and by road the least environmentally efficient. On the other hand, the comparison of the life cycle assessment (LCA) tools, SimaPro (Ecoinvent database) and Tally (GaBi database), used in this research, indicate a remarkable difference in GWP characterization impact factors per tonne.km (tkm), primarily due to the different database used by each software.
This manual is helpful for experts and novices alike. Whether you’re new to mass timber or an early adopter you’ll benefit from its comprehensive summary of the most up to date resources on topics from mass timber products and applications to tall wood construction and sustainability.
The manual’s content includes WoodWorks technical papers, Think Wood continuing education articles, case studies, expert Q&As, technical guides and other helpful tools. Click through to view each individual resource or download the master resource folder for all files in one handy location. For your convenience, this book will be updated annually as mass timber product development and the market are quickly evolving.
The development of this primer commenced shortly after the 2018 launch of the Mass Timber Institute (MTI) centered at the University of Toronto. Funding for this publication was generously provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Although numerous jurisdictions have established design guides for tall mass timber buildings, architects and engineers often do not have access to the specialized building science knowledge required to deliver well performing mass timber buildings. MTI worked collaboratively with industry, design professionals, academia, researchers and code experts to develop the scope and content of this mass timber building science primer. Although provincially funded, the broader Canadian context underlying this publication was viewed as the most appropriate means of advancing Ontario’s nascent mass timber building industry. This publication also extends beyond Canada and is based on universally applicable principles of building science and how these principles may be used anywhere in all aspects of mass timber building technology. Specifically, these guidelines were developed to guide stakeholders in selecting and implementing appropriate building science practices and protocols to ensure the acceptable life cycle performance of mass timber buildings. It is essential that each representative stakeholder, developer/owner, architect/engineer, supplier, constructor, wood erector, building official, insurer, and facility manager, understand these principles and how to apply them during the design, procurement, construction and in-service phases before embarking on a mass timber building project.
When mass timber building technology has enjoyed the same degree of penetration as steel and concrete, this primer will be long outdated and its constituent concepts will have been baked into the training and education of design professionals and all those who fabricate, construct, maintain and manage mass timber buildings.
One of the most important reasons this publication was developed was to identify gaps in building science knowledge related to mass timber buildings and hopefully to address these gaps with appropriate research, development and demonstration programs. The mass timber building industry in Canada is still a collection of seedlings that continue to grow and as such they deserve the stewardship of the best available building science knowledge to sustain them until such time as they become a forest that can fend for itself.
As woodworking and construction technologies improve, the construction of multi-storey timber buildings is gaining popularity worldwide. There is a need to look at the design of existing buildings and assess their sustainability. The aim of the present study is to assess the sustainability of modern high-rise timber buildings using multi-criteria assessment methods. The paper presents a hierarchical system of sustainability indicators and an assessment framework, developed by the authors. Based on this framework, the tallest timber buildings in different countries, i.e., Mjøstårnet in Norway, Brock Commons in Canada, Treet in Norway, Forte in Australia, Strandparken in Sweden and Stadthaus in UK, were compared across the three dimensions of sustainability (environmental, economic/technological, and social). Research has revealed that none of the buildings is leading in all dimensions of sustainability. However, each building is unique and has its own strengths. Overall multi-criteria assessment of the buildings revealed that the Brock Commons building in Canada has received the highest rank in all dimensions of sustainability. The paper contributes to the theory and practice of sustainability assessment and extends the knowledge about high-rise timber buildings. The proposed sustainability assessment framework can be used by both academics and practitioners for assessment of high-rise timber buildings.
This InfoNote summarizes recent research and work in progress. A significant amount of fire research has been conducted on mass timber over the last 10 years in Canada. This has supported the successful design and construction of numerous low-, mid-and even high-rise wood buildings. This has also fostered the introduction of new provisions into the National Building Code of Canada which has made wood and mass timber construction more accessible. However, the fire performance of these systems remains a concern for many potential occupants or owners of these buildings, not to mention building officials and fire departments. Research at FPInnovations continues to support designers and builders in the use of mass timber assemblies by ensuring fire safe designs.
FPInnovations’involvement in various codes and standards technical committees aims to monitor, contributeor propose changes for improvement as well as to create new standards to include new wood products and systems based on knowledge developed from FPInnovations’ research activities. Involvement also allows FPInnovations to be aware of any potential changes to codes and standards and to recognize and address threats and opportunities for wood use. Codes and standards exist to protect consumers but are written to reflect the current practices and knowledge based on a consensus agreement by committee members. FPInnovations’ involvement in codes and standards committees helps to align the coming changes with new wood products. This InfoNote reports on FPInnovations’ contribution to the floor vibration-control design methods on codes and standards implementation and research.
The need to lower the embodied carbon impact of the built environment and sequester carbon over the life of buildings has spurred the growth of mass timber building construction, leading to the introduction of new building types (Types IV-A, B, and C) in the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). The achievement of sustainability goals has been hindered by the perceived first cost assessment of mass timber systems. Optimizing cost is an urgent prerequisite to embodied carbon reduction. Due to a high level of prefabrication and reduction in field labor, the mass timber material volume constitutes a larger portion of total project cost when compared to buildings with traditional materials. In this study, the dollar cost, carbon emitted, and carbon sequestered of mass timber beam–column gravity system solutions with different design configurations was studied. Design parameters studied in this sensitivity analysis included viable building types, column grid dimension, and building height. A scenario study was conducted to estimate the economic viability of tall wood buildings with respect to land costs. It is concluded that, while Type III building designations are the most economical for lower building heights, the newly introduced Type IV subcategories remain competitive for taller structures while providing a potentially significant embodied carbon benefit.