Timber building has gained more and more attention worldwide due to it being a generic renewable material and having low environmental impact. It is widely accepted that the use of timber may be able to reduce the embodied energy of a building. However, the development of timber buildings in China is not as rapid as in some other countries. This may be because of the limitations of building regulations and technological development. Several new policies have been or are being implemented in China in order to encourage the use of timber in building construction and this could lead to a revolutionary change in the building industry in China. This paper is the first one to examine the feasibility of using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) as an alternative solution to concrete by means of a cradle-to-grave life-cycle assessment in China. A seven-storey reference concrete building in Xi’an was selected as a case study in comparison with a redesigned CLT building. Two cities in China, in cold and severe cold regions (Xi’an and Harbin), were selected for this research. The assessment includes three different stages of the life span of a building: materialisation, operation, and end-of-life. The inventory data used in the materialisation stage was mostly local, in order to ensure that the assessment appropriately reflects the situation in China. Energy consumption in the operation stage was obtained from simulation by commercialised software IESTM, and different scenarios for recycling of timber material in the end-of-life are discussed in this paper. The results from this paper show that using CLT to replace conventional carbon intensive material would reduce energy consumption by more than 30% and reduce CO2 emission by more than 40% in both cities. This paper supports, and has shown the potential of, CLT being used in cold regions with proper detailing to minimise environmental impact.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been used to understand the carbon and energy implications of manufacturing and using cross-laminated timber (CLT), an emerging and sustainable alternative to concrete and steel. However, previous LCAs of CLT are static analyses without considering the complex interactions between the CLT manufacturing and forest systems, which are dynamic and largely affected by the variations in forest management, CLT manufacturing, and end-of-life options. This study fills this gap by developing a dynamic life-cycle modeling framework for a cradle-to-grave CLT manufacturing system across 100 years in the Southeastern United States. The framework integrates process-based simulations of CLT manufacturing and forest growth as well as Monte Carlo simulation to address uncertainty. On 1-ha forest land basis, the net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions ranges from -954 to -1445 metric tonne CO2 eq. for a high forest productivity scenario compared to -609 to -919 for a low forest productivity scenario. All scenarios showed significant GHG emissions from forest residues decay, demonstrating the strong need to consider forest management and their dynamic impacts in LCAs of CLT or other durable wood products (DWP). The results show that using mill residues for energy recovery has lower fossil-based GHG (59%–61% reduction) than selling residues for producing DWP, but increases the net GHG emissions due to the instantaneous release of biogenic carbon in residues. In addition, the results were converted to 1 m3 basis with a cradle-to-gate system boundary to be compared with literature. The results, 113–375 kg CO2 eq./m3 across all scenarios, were consistent with previous studies. Those findings highlight the needs of system-level management to maximize the potential benefits of CLT. This work is an attributional LCA, but the presented results lay a foundation for future consequential LCAs for specific CLT buildings or commercial forest management systems.