Project contact is Hongmei Gu at the Forest Products Laboratory
The FPL team is in charge of developing a full comparative LCA study for three multiple-story mass timber buildings and their concrete alternatives in the U.S. Northeast region, with Boston as the point location. Using these three comparative LCAs, this research will determine the GHG emissions reduction potential from mass timber use in the building sector for the U.S. region. This may increase potential for growth in wood utilization, timber harvest, and forest management practices through the market demands.
The anticipated growth and urbanization of the global population over the next several decades will create a vast demand for the construction of new housing, commercial buildings and accompanying infrastructure. The production of cement, steel and other building materials associated with this wave of construction will become a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Might it be possible to transform this potential threat to the global climate system into a powerful means to mitigate climate change? To answer this provocative question, we explore the potential of mid-rise urban buildings designed with engineered timber to provide long-term storage of carbon and to avoid the carbon-intensive production of mineral-based construction materials.
Sustainability and innovation are key components in the fight against climate change. Mass timber buildings have been gaining popularity due to the renewable nature of timber. Although research comparing mass timber buildings to more mainstream buildings such as steel is still in the early stages and therefore, limited. We are looking to determine the difference between carbon footprints of mass timber and traditional steel and concrete buildings. This is done with the intention of determining the sustainability and practicality of mass timber buildings.
This paper reports on a study examining the potential of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building sector by substituting multi-storey steel and concrete building structures with timber structures. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is applied to compare the climate change impact (CC) of a reinforced concrete (RC) benchmark structure to the CC of an alternative timber structure for four buildings ranging from 3 to 21 storeys. The timber structures are dimensioned to meet the same load criteria as the benchmark structures. The LCA comprises three calculation approaches differing in analysis perspective, allocation methods, and modelling of biogenic CO2 and carbonation of concrete. Irrespective of the assumptions made, the timber structures cause lower CC than the RC structures. By applying attributional LCA, the timber structures are found to cause a CC that is 34-84% lower than the RC structures. The large span is due to different building heights and methodological assumptions. The CC saving per m2 floor area obtained by substituting a RC structure with a timber structure decrease slightly with building height up to 12 storeys, but increase from 12 to 21 storeys. From a consequential LCA perspective, constructing timber structures can result in avoided GHG emissions, indicated by a negative CC. Compared to the RC structures, this equal savings greater than 100%.
Consuming over 40% of total primary energy, the built environment is in the centre of worldwide strategies and measures towards a more sustainable future. To provide resilient solutions, a simple optimisation of individual technologies will not be sufficient. In contrast, whole system thinking reveals and exploits connections between parts. Each system interacts with others on different scales (materials, components, buildings, cities) and domains (ecology, economy and social). Whole-system designers optimize the performance of such systems by understanding interconnections and identifying synergies. The more complete the design integration, the better the result.
In this book, the reader will find the proceedings of the 2016 Sustainable Built Environment (SBE) Regional Conference in Zurich. Papers have been written by academics and practitioners from all continents to bring forth the latest understanding on systems thinking in the built environment.
Sustainable use of natural resources is essential in lean construction. Resource efficiency brings responsibilities’ for all actors in the whole building value chain. In wooden construction sustainable use of natural resources starts with sustainable forestry, but the design process is responsible for designing resource efficient solutions which are durable, material and energy efficient and long lasting. This paper focuses on studying resource consumption and consequent GHG impacts. The results are given for two wooden prefabricated multi-storey building technologies: for the construction with large elements and for box-modules. Life cycle based material flow accounting shows that the lightweight nature of wooden structures embodies efficiency in resource use. However it depends also on building shape, compactness and the type of on designed solutions. When the intensity of other materials is high enough and the building design is not favourable the final result for the wooden building can be on the same level with concrete buildings. This study clarifies the understanding about material efficiency in wooden buildings.