26.7.18 Can sustainable mass timber buildings solve the energy crisis?

 26.7.18 Can sustainable mass timber buildings solve the energy crisis?News Blog Maverick Baker, a writer and scientist, has penned an article for Interesting Engineering praising mass timber buildings as the key to solving the world’s energy crisis. You can read the full in-depth piece here but we wanted to share a few key points and quotes from his research:

Buildings are constantly being erected to maintain enough space for population growth, but the life cycle of a building is one of the most energy-intensive processes in the world. Buildings, building materials, and subsequent construction components consume nearly 40 percent of the global energy demand.

While there are many reasons for the substantial amount of energy used to build and maintain buildings, one of the major environmental concerns arises from the fabrication of cement – one of the basic ingredients in concrete. The cement industry is one of the worst contributors of pollution. Its production accounts for about 5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions alone.

“Buildings are one of the largest consumers of global resources and all energy produced, and are primary contributors to greenhouse gases and solid wastes,” says the MIT Mass Timber Design team, a small group of MIT researchers leading a new initiative to change the way buildings are made. “[So] the need for energy-intelligent building prototypes is more significant than ever.”

The answer? Civil engineers and architects of today are reverting modern building practices to re-incorporate timber as a primary structure and construction material. New technologies are being investigated to replace steel reinforced concrete structures with mass timber housing.

Wood is both light and strong, and it maintains excellent insulation properties without requiring additional resources. Unlike wood, concrete is a poor insulator and requires additional material to keep it better insulated. New technologies are improving the durability of timber, making it more environmentally and economically viable than its concrete counterpart.

But perhaps most importantly, according to a study led by CORRIM (Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials), the lifecycle of steel and concrete results in 26% to 31% more greenhouse gas emissions than that of wood.

As weather systems continue to worsen, it is becoming more vital than ever to reduce greenhouse gases. With the movement and introduction of carbon taxes and other similar pollution tax, there may also be other saving incentives for companies to make the transition.

Timber constructions can also be more aesthetically pleasing and when harvested appropriately, is considered to be a renewable resource.

“Mass timber, a wood-based building design, and construction technology, has received attention over the past few decades given its efficiency, speed, precision and versatility in construction for low to high-rise applications. Mass timber buildings are becoming more common throughout North America, most notably due to the technology’s environmental benefits and the potential impacts it can have on America’s forest health and restoration,” concludes the MIT team.


At PassivPod, we’re very pleased that sustainable timber is becoming more recognised as the building material of the future. Read our previous post on all the reasons we love sustainable timber as a construction material.

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