Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on mass timber and traditional institutional buildings

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University of New Brunswick
Mass Timber Products (MTP) are large volumed engineered wood products that can be used as structural components of buildings. They can provide the same structural performance as traditional building materials while causing less environmental impact. However, MTPs are not widely available in New Brunswick (NB), Canada. The only way to acquire MTPs in NB is to transport them from other provinces, which will increase the carbon footprint to some degree. The objectives of this research were to investigate if using MTPs still had environmental benefit after considering the transportation of MTPs and discover if two life cycle assessment (LCA) tools designed for the North American market could be used interchangeably. The results showed that using MTPs in construction in NB could still cause significantly less impact in Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) than traditional buildings in the cradle-to-gate stage. Yet the disadvantage includes higher impacts in Eutrophication Potential, (EP), Smog Potential (SP), and Acidification Potential (AP). The results also showed that the two LCA tools could not be used interchangeably as these tools provide different value in their results and allocate the source of impact differently. Applying MTPs in future construction projects in NB is recommended as doing so will aid in decreasing GWP and ODP caused by building. These two advantages of MTPs still exist despite increase in environmental impact caused by long-distance transportation. If further development in transportation technology can be applied in the future, the effect of these two advantages will be enhanced.