Research Portal

July 1, 2022

Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Mass Timber and Concrete Residential Buildings: A Case Study in China

Chen, Cindy X.; Pierobon, Francesca; Jones, Susan; Maples, Ian; Gong, Yingchun; Ganguly, Indroneil. (2022). Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Mass Timber and Concrete Residential Buildings: A Case Study in China. Sustainability, 14(1).

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As the population continues to grow in China's urban settings, the building sector contributes to increasing levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Concrete and steel are the two most common construction materials used in China and account for 60% of the carbon emissions among all building components. Mass timber is recognized as an alternative building material to concrete and steel, characterized by better environmental performance and unique structural features. Nonetheless, research associated with mass timber buildings is still lacking in China. Quantifying the emission mitigation potentials of using mass timber in new buildings can help accelerate associated policy development and provide valuable references for developing more sustainable constructions in China. This study used a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach to compare the environmental impacts of a baseline concrete building and a functionally equivalent timber building that uses cross-laminated timber as the primary material. A cradle-to-gate LCA model was developed based on onsite interviews and surveys collected in China, existing publications, and geography-specific life cycle inventory data. The results show that the timber building achieved a 25% reduction in global warming potential compared to its concrete counterpart. The environmental performance of timber buildings can be further improved through local sourcing, enhanced logistics, and manufacturing optimizations.


Mass Timber; Embodied Carbon; Climate Change; Carbon Reduction; Building Footprint; Built Environment; Forest Products; Life Cycle Analysis; Environmental Impacts; Wood Laminates; Geography; Concrete; Flooring; Manufacturing; Global Warming; Concrete Construction; Construction Materials; Emissions Trading; Greenhouse Gases; Residential Areas; Energy Consumption; Life Cycle Assessment; Greenhouse Effect; Life Cycles; Construction Industry; Logistics; Floor Coverings; Urbanization; Timber; Urban Environments; Building Components; Emissions; Residential Buildings; Carbon Footprint; Urban Areas; Environmental Impact; Building Construction; Case Studies; Wood Products; Mitigation; Buildings; Timber (structural); United States--us; China