Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Assessment of Environmental Impacts of Wood Substitution in Commercial Construction Public Deposited

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  • In the residential sector, wood is the predominant construction material. In the commercial sector and in mid‐rise construction, the use of wood is limited because of a multitude of reasons, including building code restrictions, the perception of wood as a structural material, fire code requirements, and lack of knowledge and experience. Wood, being a natural, renewable material that sequesters carbon, is a natural fit for newer construction with enhanced sustainability goals. Moreover, wood can be recycled, sourced locally, and requires less energy intensive manufacturing and processing as compared to other conventional building products. Given the perceived environmental benefits of wood, it is imperative that a case is examined for wood to be included more extensively in the mid‐rise and commercial sectors. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate and identify the environmental utility (avoided emissions) of using wood in place of steel and concrete in the commercial construction and renovation sectors in Oregon. The study used comparative cradle‐to‐grave, life‐cycle assessment, with the help of the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings. First, six case studies that represent different building functionalities, material systems, and construction techniques were modeled via the user interface input option, and the results were evaluated for global warming potential (GWP) and impacts on energy sources, such as fossil fuel consumption, when structural materials are substituted using wood. Second, one of the case studies was redesigned using current codes with conventional wood products and with cross‐ laminated timber (CLT) panels. Bills of materials (BOM) for both wood redesigns and the as‐built design were used as an input in the software and subsequently analyzed. The results showed that the average reduction in global warming potential due to wood substitution in the first approach was about 60% across the six case studies. Comparison of the environmental savings due to building redesigns showed greater GWP savings, resulting in net CO₂ absorption. These findings reinforce the perception of wood as a green building material in commercial construction, encouraging architects, engineers, and building owners to use wood for structural applications, which may, in return, increase markets for wood products.
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