Reducing the embodied and operational energy of buildings is a key priority for construction and real estate sectors. It is essential to prioritize materials and construction technologies with low carbon footprints for the design of new buildings. Off-site constructions systems are claimed to have the potential to deliver a low carbon build environment, but at present there are a lack of data about their real environmental impacts. This paper sheds lights on the environmental performance of two offsite technologies: cold formed steel and cross laminated timber. Specifically, the environmental impacts of a CFS technology are discussed according to six standard impact categories, which includes the global warming potential and the total use of primary energy. The study is based on a detailed cradle to gate life cycle analysis of a real case study, and discusses the impacts of both structural and non-structural components of CFS constructions. As a useful frame of reference, this work compares the environmental impacts of 1 m2 of walls and floors of CFS technology with those of cross laminated timber, which is spreading as innovative off-site technology for the development of nearly zero energy buildings, and a conventional reinforced masonry technology, which is largely adopted in the Italian construction sector. The paper concludes with the necessity to optimize structural systems to reduce the overall embodied carbon impacts.
Buildings account for over one-third of global emissions and energy use. Meeting climate pledges will require achieving high operational energy efficiency with low embodied impacts in new construction. Yet, a systematic identification of the relative influence of building design parameters on both operational and embodied efficiencies has rarely been attempted. In this paper we explore for the first time the sensitivity of a wide range of design and operation parameters in terms of embodied carbon, construction cost, as well as heating and cooling loads for multi-storey buildings. We devised a model to estimate the relative importance of a large set of input variables, describing a building’s shape, size, layout, structure, ventilation, windows, insulation, air, and use for residential and office multi-storey buildings, across different climates. We found that increasing building compactness, using steel or timber instead of concrete frames, lowering window-to-wall ratio, choosing the most suitable glazing, and employing mechanical ventilation with heat recovery are the most important measures to decrease embodied emissions and operational energy. The most significant trade-offs with construction cost were found for the choice of frame material and in the decision whether to install mechanical ventilation. We estimate that 28–44% of yearly heating and cooling energy and 6 Gt cumulative embodied CO2e until 2050 could be saved in multi-storey buildings, without employing new technologies.
Broader adoption of timber construction is a strategy for reducing negative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created by the construction industry. This paper proposes a novel solid timber building envelope that uses computational design and digital fabrication to improve buildings’ energy performance. Timber beams are sawn with deep slits that improve thermal insulation and are milled with various joints for airtight, structural connections. To minimize embedded energy and to simplify disposal, the envelope is assembled without adhesives or metal fasteners. The building envelope is evaluated for thermal resistance and airtightness, and fabrication is evaluated for duration and power output during sawing. Finally, a Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) is carried out. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) is compared to that of other wood envelope systems with similar thermal conductance. Compared to other timber constructions with similar building physics properties, the proposed system showed lower GWP values (-15.63 kg CO2 eq./m² construction). The development and analysis demonstrate the potential to use digitally controlled subtractive manufacturing for improving the quality of solid timber to achieve higher environmental performance in building envelopes. However, further design and fabrication optimizations may be necessary to reduce required materials and production energy.
This study conducted a consequential Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on two similar mid-rise apartment buildings applying either concrete or cross laminated timber (CLT) as the main structural material. The study further investigated inclusion of biogenic carbon and how this affects environmental impacts related to Global warming. Thus, two assessment scenarios were applied: A Base scenario, without accounting for biogenic carbon and a Biogenic carbon scenario that include a GWPbio factor to account for the use of biogenic carbon. The CLT building had the lowest impact score in 11 of 18 impact categories including Global warming. Operational energy use was the main contributor to the total impact with some variation across impact scores, but closely followed by impacts embodied in materials (incl. End-of-Life). An evaluation of the potential forest transformations required for fulfilling future projections for new building construction in 2060 showed that about 3% of current global forest area would be needed. This share was essentially independent of the selected building material as the main driver for forest transformation was found to be energy use during building operation. Thus, focus should primarily be on reducing deforestation related to energy generation rather than deforestation from production of building materials.
This paper presents structures of timber-framed walls designed for passive houses, using natural and waste resources as insulation materials, such as wool, wood fibers, ground paper, reeds (Phragmites communis), and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) wastes. The insulation systems of stud walls composed of wool–ABS composite boards and five types of fillers (wool, ABS, wood fibers, ground paper, and reeds) were investigated to reach U-value requirements for passive houses. The wall structures were designed at a thickness of 175 mm, including gypsum board for internal wall lining and oriented strand board (OSB) for the exterior one. The testing protocol of thermal insulation properties of wall structures simulated conditions for indoor and outdoor temperatures during the winter and summer seasons using HFM-Lambda laboratory equipment. In situ measurements of U-values were determined for the experimental wall structures during winter time, when the temperature differences between outside and inside exceeded 10 °C. The results recorded for the U-values between 0.20 W/m2K and 0.35 W/m2K indicate that the proposed structures are energy-efficient walls for passive houses placed in the temperate-continental areas. The vapour flow rate calculation does not indicate the presence of condensation in the 175 mm thick wall structures, which proves that the selected thermal insulation materials are not prone to degradation due to condensation. The research is aligned to the international trend in civil engineering, oriented to the design and construction of low-energy buildings on the one hand and the use of environmentally friendly or recycled materials on the other.
This paper advances the current knowledge on the use of prefabricated timber-based panels in building renovation by analyzing in detail the thermal performance achieved by two different renovation solutions developed in the framework of the ongoing e-SAFE H2020 project. In particular, these solutions apply to the external walls of a pilot building located in Catania (Italy) as a double-skin façade that increases also the seismic performance of the building. The dynamic energy simulations reveal that the proposed solutions allow reducing the energy need for space heating and space cooling by 66% and 25%, respectively. One further finding is that, although the proposed timber-based renovation solutions are not affected by mould growth and surface condensation risk, the impact of thermal bridges cannot be neglected after renovation. Indeed, despite the strong reduction in the magnitude of heat losses due to thermal bridges (from 667 W·K-1 down to 213.1 W·K-1), they still account for about 21% of total heat losses after the renovation. This suggests that more complex and expensive technological solutions should be introduced to further reduce heat losses in some thermal bridges, but a cost-benefit analysis should justify their adoption. Finally, overlooking these thermal bridges in dynamic energy simulations can lead to an average underestimation of the heating and cooling energy demand after the renovation, by about 16% and 5% respectively. In this regard, the paper proposes a simplified yet reliable approach to include heat transfer through thermal bridges in the post-processing stage of dynamic energy simulations under thermostatic control.
A contemporary challenge for the construction industry is to develop a technology based on natural building materials which at the same time provides high energy efficiency. This paper presents the results of an airtightness test and a thermal imaging study of a detached house built with technology using cross laminated dowelled timber panels. The thermal conductivity coefficients of the wood wool used to insulate the walls and ceiling of the building have also been measured, the linear heat transfer coefficients of the structural nodes have been numerically determined, and calculations have been made regarding the energy efficiency of the building. On the basis of the research, it was found that the air exchange rate in the analyzed building n50 is at the level of 4.77 h-1. Air leaks were also observed in the places of connection of longitudinal walls with the roof and at the junction of window frames with external walls. The experimentally determined thermal conductivity coefficient of the wood wool was ~10% higher than that declared by the manufacturer. Calculations for the energy performance certificate showed that an increase of ~10% in the thermal conductivity coefficient of the wood wool used to insulate the building results in a heating demand increase of 2.1%. It was also found that changing the value of the parameter n50 from 1.0 h-1 to 4.77 h-1 leads to a 40.1% increase in heat demand for heating the building. At the same time, the indicators for final energy demand EK and non-renewable primary energy demand EP increase by 18.1%.
This new study aims to generate hygrothermal, particularly moisture-related performance data for light wood-frame walls meeting the R22 effective (RSI 3.85) requirement for buildings up to six storeys in the City of Vancouver. The overarching goal is to identify and develop durable exterior wood-frame walls to assist in the design and construction of energy efficient buildings across the country. Twelve test wall panels in six types of wall assemblies are assessed in this study. The wall panels, each measuring 4 ft. (1200 mm) wide and 8 ft. (2400 mm) tall, form portions of the exterior walls of a test hut located in the rear yard of FPInnovations’ Vancouver laboratory. This report, second in a series on this study, documents the performance of these wall assemblies based on the data collected over 19 months’ period from October 2018 to May 2020, covering two winter seasons and one summer.
A test program was conducted to generate hygrothermal performance data for light-wood-frame exterior walls meeting the R22 effective (RSI 3.85) requirement for buildings up to six storeys in the City of Vancouver. Six types of exterior wall assemblies, with 12 wall panels in total, were tested using a test hut located in the rear yard of FPInnovations’ Vancouver aboratory. This document provides a brief summary of the test and performance of these walls based on the data collected over the 19 months’ period from October 2018 to May 2020
Un programme d’essais a été réalisé en vue de générer des données sur le rendement hygrothermique des murs à ossature légère de bois qui répondent à l’exigence R22 (RSI 3,85) pour les bâtiments d'au plus six étages à Vancouver. Six types d’assemblage de mur extérieur, avec un total de 12 murs extérieurs, ont été mis à l’essai à l’aide d’une hutte d’essai située dans la cour arrière du laboratoire de FPInnovations à Vancouver. Le présent document présente un court résumé de l’essai et du rendement de ces murs en se basant sur les données recueillies sur une période de 19 mois, soit d’octobre 2018 à mai 2020 (Wang 2021).