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Buildings 2012, 2(3), 245-270; doi:10.3390/buildings2030245
Article

A Comparative Cradle-to-Gate Life Cycle Assessment of Mid-Rise Office Building Construction Alternatives: Laminated Timber or Reinforced Concrete

1,* , 2
 and 3
Received: 23 April 2012; in revised form: 25 June 2012 / Accepted: 26 June 2012 / Published: 17 July 2012
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Abstract: 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.
Keywords: whole building life cycle assessment; cradle-to-gate; material selection; wood products; glulam; cross-laminated timber; reinforced concrete; mid-rise office building; embodied energy whole building life cycle assessment; cradle-to-gate; material selection; wood products; glulam; cross-laminated timber; reinforced concrete; mid-rise office building; embodied energy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Robertson, A.B.; Lam, F.C.F.; Cole, R.J. A Comparative Cradle-to-Gate Life Cycle Assessment of Mid-Rise Office Building Construction Alternatives: Laminated Timber or Reinforced Concrete. Buildings 2012, 2, 245-270.

AMA Style

Robertson AB, Lam FCF, Cole RJ. A Comparative Cradle-to-Gate Life Cycle Assessment of Mid-Rise Office Building Construction Alternatives: Laminated Timber or Reinforced Concrete. Buildings. 2012; 2(3):245-270.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Robertson, Adam B.; Lam, Frank C. F.; Cole, Raymond J. 2012. "A Comparative Cradle-to-Gate Life Cycle Assessment of Mid-Rise Office Building Construction Alternatives: Laminated Timber or Reinforced Concrete." Buildings 2, no. 3: 245-270.

Buildings EISSN 2075-5309 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert