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 research presents a Carbon Value Engineering framework. This is a quantitative value analysis method, which not only estimates cost but also considers the carbon impact of alternative design solutions. It is primarily concerned with reducing cost and carbon impacts of developed design projects; that is, projects where the design is already a completed to a stage where a Bill of Quantity (BoQ) is available, material quantities are known, and technical understanding of the building is developed.
This research demonstrates that adopting this integrated carbon and cost method was able to reduce embodied carbon emissions by 63-267 kgCO2-e/m2 (8-36%) when maintaining a concrete frame, and 72-427 kgCO2-e/m2 (10-57%) when switching to a more novel whole timber frame. With a GFA of 43,229 m2 these savings equate to an overall reduction of embodied carbon in the order of 2,723 – 18,459 tonnes of CO2-e. Costs savings for both alternatives were in the order of $127/m2 which equates to a 10% reduction in capital cost.
For comparison purposes the case study was also tested with a high-performance façade. This reduced lifecycle carbon emissions in the order of 255 kgCO2-e/m2, over 50 years, but at an additional capital cost, due to the extra materials. What this means is strategies to reduce embodied carbon even late in the design stage can provide carbon savings comparable, and even greater than, more traditional strategies to reduce operational emissions over a building’s effective life.
The objective of this project was to quantify and compare the environmental impacts associated with alternative designs for a typical North American mid-rise office building. Two scenarios were considered; a traditional cast-in-place, reinforced concrete frame and a laminated timber hybrid design, which utilized engineered wood products (cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam). The boundary of the quantitative analysis was cradle-to-construction site gate and encompassed the structural support system and the building enclosure. Floor plans, elevations, material quantities, and structural loads associated with a five-storey concrete-framed building design were obtained from issued-for-construction drawings. A functionally equivalent, laminated timber hybrid design was conceived, based on Canadian Building Code requirements. Design values for locally produced CLT panels were established from in-house material testing. Primary data collected from a pilot-scale manufacturing facility was used to develop the life cycle inventory for CLT, whereas secondary sources were referenced for other construction materials. The TRACI characterization methodology was employed to translate inventory flows into impact indicators. The results indicated that the laminated timber building design offered a lower environmental impact in 10 of 11 assessment categories. The cradle-to-gate process energy was found to be nearly identical in both design scenarios (3.5 GJ/m2), whereas the cumulative embodied energy (feedstock plus process) of construction materials was estimated to be 8.2 and 4.6 GJ/m2 for the timber and concrete designs, respectively; which indicated an increased availability of readily accessible potential energy stored within the building materials of the timber alternative.