The objective of this paper was to quantify and compare the environmental impacts associated with alternative designs of typical North American low and mid-rise buildings. Two scenarios were considered: a traditional structural steel frame or an all-wood mass timber design, utilizing engineered wood products for both gravity and lateral load resistance. The boundary of the quantitative analysis was cradle-to-grave with considerations taken to discuss end-of-life and material reuse scenarios. The TRACI methodology was followed to conduct a Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) analysis that translates building quantities to environmental impact indicators using the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings Life Cycle analysis software tool and Athena’s Life Cycle Inventory database. The results of the analysis show that mass timber buildings have an advantage with respect to several environmental impact categories, including eutrophication potential, human health particulate, and global warming potential where a 31% to 41% reduction was found from mass timber to steel designs, neglecting potential carbon sequestration benefits from the timber products. However, it was also found that the steel buildings have a lower impact with respect to the environmental impact categories of smog potential, acidification potential, and ozone depletion potential, where a 48% to 58% reduction was found from the steel to the mass timber building designs.
The goal of this study was to update life-cycle assessment (LCA) data associated with laminated veneer lumber (LVL) production in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) region of the United States from cradle-to-gate mill output. The authors collected primary mill data from LVL production facilities per Consortium on Research for Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) Research Guidelines. Comparative assertions were not a goal of this study.
The goal of the present study was to develop life-cycle impact assessment (LCIA) data associated with gate-to-gate laminated veneer lumber (LVL) production in the southeast (SE) region of the U.S. with the ultimate aim of constructing an updated cradle-to-gate mill output life-cycle assessment (LCA). The authors collected primary (survey) mill data from LVL production facilities per Consortium on Research for Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) Research Guidelines. Comparative assertions were not a goal of the present study.