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.
Manufacturing of building materials and construction of buildings make up 11% of the global greenhouse gas emission by sector. Mass timber construction has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by moving wood into buildings with designs that have traditionally been dominated by steel and concrete. The environmental impacts of mass timber buildings were compared against those of functionally equivalent conventional buildings. Three pairs of buildings were designed for the Pacific Northwest, Northeast and Southeast regions in the United States to conform to mass timber building types with 8, 12, or 18 stories. Conventional buildings constructed with concrete and steel were designed for comparisons with the mass timber buildings. Over all regions and building heights, the mass timber buildings exhibited a reduction in the embodied carbon varying between 22% and 50% compared to the concrete buildings. Embodied carbon per unit of area increased with building height as the quantity of concrete, metals, and other nonrenewable materials increased. Total embodied energy to produce, transport, and construct A1–A5 materials was higher in all mass timber buildings compared to equivalent concrete. Further research is needed to predict the long-term carbon emissions and carbon mitigation potential of mass timber buildings to conventional building materials.
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.
This study evaluated the effects on forest resources and forest product markets of three contrasting mass timber demand scenarios (Conservative, Optimistic, and Extreme), up to 2060, in twelve selected countries in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. Analyses were carried out by utilizing the FOrest Resource Outlook Model, a partial market equilibrium model of the global forest sector. The findings suggest increases in global softwood lumber production of 8, 23, and 53 million m3 per year by 2060, under the Conservative, Optimistic, and Extreme scenarios, respectively, leading to world price increases of 2%, 7%, and 23%, respectively. This projected price increase is relative to the projected price in the reference scenario, altering prices, production, consumption, trade of forest products, timber harvest, forest growth, and forest stock in individual countries. An increase in softwood lumber prices due to increased mass timber demand would lead to the reduced consumption of softwood lumber for traditional end-use (e.g., light-frame construction), suggesting a likely strong market competition for softwood lumber between the mass timber and traditional construction industries. In contrast, the projected effect on global forest stock was relatively small based on the relatively fast projected biomass growth in stands assumed to be regenerated after harvest.
16th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering
The NHERI TallWood project is a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded four-year research project focusing on the development of a resilient tall wood building design philosophy. One of the first major tasks within the project was to test a full-scale two-story mass timber building at the largest shake table in the U.S., the NHERI at UCSD’s outdoor shake table facility, to study the dynamic behaviour of a mass timber building with a resilient rocking wall system. The specimen consisted of two coupled two-story tall post-tensioned cross laminated timber rocking walls surrounded by mass timber gravity frames simulating a realistic portion of a building floor plan at full scale. Diaphragms consisted of bare CLT at the first floor level and concrete-topped, composite CLT at the roof. The specimen was subjected to ground motions scaled to three intensity levels representing frequent, design basis, and maximum considered earthquakes. In this paper, the design and implementation of this test program is summarized. The performance of the full building system under these different levels of seismic intensity is presented.
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.
The building industry currently consumes over a third of energy produced and emits 39% of greenhouse gases globally produced by human activities. The manufacturing of building materials and the construction of buildings make up 11% of those emissions within the sector. Whole-building life-cycle assessment is a holistic and scientific tool to assess multiple environmental impacts with internationally accepted inventory databases. A comparison of the building life-cycle assessment results would help to select materials and designs to reduce total environmental impacts at the early planning stage for architects and developers, and to revise the building code to improve environmental performance. The Nature Conservancy convened a group of researchers and policymakers from governments and non-profit organizations with expertise across wood product life-cycle assessment, forest carbon, and forest products market analysis to address emissions and energy consumption associated with mass timber building solutions. The study disclosed a series of detailed, comparative life-cycle assessments of pairs of buildings using both mass timber and conventional materials. The methodologies used in this study are clearly laid out in this paper for transparency and accountability. A plethora of data exists on the favorable environmental performance of wood as a building material and energy source, and many opportunities appear for research to improve on current practices.
This thesis explores the challenges and potential of mass timber as a paradigm shifting technology for the building industry through the application of parametric modeling technology to the design of office buildings. By testing building configurations in three zoning envelopes—low-rise suburban, mid-rise urban, and high-rise urban—optimization strategies for mass timber office buildings were developed. Facades and floor slabs were identified as the primary contributors to building cost and environmental impacts and therefore the easiest targets for optimization. The primary method for optimizing facades is replacing curtain wall with solid cross laminated timber (CLT) walls, this method runs counter to developer driven standards of fully glazed facades making short term adoption of this strategy unlikely without major shifts in building developer and owner expectations. Slabs and floor systems can be optimized through the implementation of novel solutions that take advantage of composite action between glulam, CLT, and concrete elements. Additionally, zoning height incentives could be used to make timber construction competitive with steel and concrete systems despite increased floor-to-floor heights. Finally, future research opportunities and needs, both architectural and technical, are identified.
Project contact is Shiling Pei at the Colorado School of Mines
NHERI Tallwood project is an effort to develop and validate a resilient-based seismic design methodology for tall wood buildings. The project started in September 2016 and will last till 2020. The project team will validate the design methodology through shake table testing of a 10-story full-scaled wood building specimen at NHERI@UCSD. It will be the world's largest wood building tested at full-scale.
Seismically resilient, lateral systems for tall timber buildings can be created by combining cross laminated timber (CLT) panels with post-tensioned (PT) self-centering technology. The concept features a system of stacked CLT walls where particular stories are equipped to rock against the above and below floor diaphragms through PT connections and are supplemented with mild steel U-shaped flexural plate energy dissipation devices (UFPs). Experiments were conducted to better understand rocking CLT wall behavior and seismic performance. The testing program consisted of five single wall tests with varying PT areas, initial tensioning force, CLT panel composition, and rocking surface and one coupled wall test with UFPs as the coupling devices. The walls were tested with a quasi-static reverse-cyclic load protocol. The experimental results showed a ductile response and good energy dissipation qualities. To evaluate the feasibility and performance of the rocking CLT wall system, prototype designs were developed for 8 to 14 story buildings in Seattle using a performance-based seismic design procedure. Performance was assessed using numerical simulations performed in OpenSees for ground motions representing a range of seismic hazards. The results were used to validate the performance-based seismic design procedure for tall timber buildings with rocking CLT walls.