A Sustainable Alternative
Embodied carbon is the carbon emitted during the manufacturing, transportation, and construction of building materials. Materials like concrete and steel have a high embodied carbon, making the major contributors to carbon emissions in the construction industry. In recent years, mass timber has emerged as a sustainable alternative to traditional construction materials like steel and concrete. Not only is it a renewable resource, but mass timber also has a much lower embodied carbon.
“Research shows that using mass timber can reduce the embodied carbon of a building structure by up to 75%”
This reduction is due to several factors, including the carbon sequestration of trees during their growth, the low energy required to manufacture and transport mass timber,and the potential for carbon storage within the building itself. As the world becomes more conscious of the impact of carbon emissions on global warming, the demand for low-carbon building materials like mass timber is increasing. In addition, advancements in technology and manufacturing have made mass timber more affordable and accessible, leading to increased production volumes.
Mass timber has seen a surge in production volumes over the past few years. According to a report by the Wood Products Council, the North American mass timber market grew by 30% in 2020, with a production volume of 450,000 cubic metres. The report also forecasts that the market will continue to grow, with a projected production volume of 1.3 million cubic metres by 2023. In Europe, the production of cross-laminated timber(CLT), has grown by over 20% annually over the past few years, according to a report by the European CLT Association. A report by the Australian Forest Products Association states that the production of mass timber in Australia grew by 40% between 2018 and 2020 growing to 132,000 cubic metres.
Several examples of BG&E’s timber buildings showcase how using mass timber has reduced the embodied carbon of the building structure. The Castle Towers office building, for instance, is a 12-story hybrid office building with floor plates constructed using a mass timber - concrete composite, a concrete core and Glue Laminated Timber (GLT) Columns. The building has a carbon footprint that is 30% lower than that of a comparable concrete or steel building. Similarly, for our client Goodman we have designed an office component of their industrial building with GLT and CLT achieving a carbon footprint 50% lower than a comparable concrete building.
In summary, the construction industry is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions. The embodied carbon of building materials is a major contributor to these emissions. Mass timber is a sustainable alternative to traditional construction materials like concrete and steel. It has a much lower embodied carbon and has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings. Efficient design using timber where it is suited is providing a significant reduction in embodied carbon to BG&E’s clients. As the world continues to prioritise sustainable building practices, mass timber will undoubtedly play a role in reducing the carbon footprint of the construction industry.