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.
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.
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 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.
Ventilated façades can help to reduce summer building thermal loads and, therefore, energy consumption due to air-conditioning systems thanks to the combined effect of the solar radiation reflection and the natural or forced ventilation into the cavity. The evaluation of ventilated façades behavior and performance is complex and requires a complete thermo-fluid dynamic analysis. In this study, a computational fluid dynamic (CFD) methodology has been developed for the complete assessment of the energy performance of a prefabricated timber–concrete composite ventilated façade module in different operating conditions. Global numerical results are presented as well as local ones in terms of heat flux, air velocity, and temperature inside the façade cavity. The results show the dependency of envelope efficiency on solar radiation, the benefits that natural convection brings on potential energy savings and the importance of designing an optimized façade geometry. The results concerning the façade behavior have been thoroughly compared with International Standards, showing the good accuracy of the model with respect to these well-known procedures. This comparison allowed also to highlight the International Standards procedures limits in evaluating the ventilated façade behavior with the necessary level of detail, with the risk of leading to design faults.
Advanced industrialized construction methods enable complex building components and systems to be built with high precision and quality. This manufacturing technique has an advantage to provide cost-competitive and high energy efficient building components and systems for both retrofits and new construction. This document gives an overview of the use of prefabricated panels in building Net Zero Energy Ready wood-frame multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) in Edmonton.
The main goal of this study was to review current studies on the state of the art of wood constructions with a particular focus on energy efficiency, which could serve as a valuable source of information for both industry and scholars. This review begins with an overview of the role of materials in wood buildings to improve energy performance, covering structural and insulation materials that have already been successfully used in the market for general applications over the years. Subsequently, studies of different wood building systems (i.e., wood-frame, post-and-beam, mass timber and hybrid constructions) and energy efficiency are discussed. This is followed by a brief introduction to strategies to increase the energy efficiency of constructions. Finally, remarks and future research opportunities for wood buildings are highlighted. Some general recommendations for developing more energy-efficient wood buildings are identified in the literature and discussed. There is a lack of emerging construction concepts for wood-frame and post-and-beam buildings and a lack of design codes and specifications for mass timber and hybrid buildings. From the perspective of the potential environmental benefits of these systems as a whole, and their effects on energy efficiency and embodied energy in constructions, there are barriers that need to be considered in the future.