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Chapter 11: Environmental Impacts. Lecture 2: Life Cycle Analysis of Bio-based Composites. Learning Objectives. Introduce life cycle assessment Provide some life cycle data for bio-based building materials Compare with steel & concrete Compare composites vs. solid

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chapter 11 environmental impacts

Chapter 11:Environmental Impacts

Lecture 2: Life Cycle Analysis

of Bio-based Composites

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Introduce life cycle assessment
  • Provide some life cycle data for bio-based building materials
    • Compare with steel & concrete
    • Compare composites vs. solid
  • Put building materials in whole-house context
what is lca
What is LCA?
  • Life Cycle Analysis
    • AKA
      • Cradle-to-grave
      • Cradle-to-gate
      • Cradle-to-cradle
      • Well-to-wheel
    • The investigation and valuation of the environmental impacts of a given product over its lifecycle
life cycle analysis
Life Cycle Analysis

Goal and Scope Definition


Inventory Analysis

Impact Assessment

  • Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials
  • Conduct LCA for building materials
  • All data in this presentation are from CORRIM
membership in corrim
Membership in CORRIM

Research Institutions and Voting Board Members

University of Washington

Oregon State University

University of Minnesota

University of Idaho


Virginia Tech

North Carolina State University

Purdue University

University of Maine

Penn State University

State University of New York

APA, The Engineered Wood Association

Western Wood Products Association

Composite Panel Association Research Foundation

Washington State University

Louisiana State University

Mississippi State University

  • The environmental consequences forest management, product manufacturing, and construction are poorly understood
  • Need life-cycle data regarding wood and bio-based products

This website claims that steel is ‘green’ because it doesn’t require cutting trees. Is it that simple?


Life Cycle Inventory Analysis - for Wood Building Materials

Forest Management (Regeneration)



Raw Material Acquisition(Harvest)





Product Manufacturing




Building Construction







Recycle/Waste Management



System Boundaries

Forest Resources: NW and SE(25-100+ years)

Harvesting( < 1 Year) logs NW and SE

Processing( < 1 Year)

lumber SE and NW (green and dry) plywood NW and SE OSB SE Glulam, LVL, I-Joists

Construction( < 1 Year)

wood and steel Minneapolis (cold) wood and concrete Atlanta (warm)

Use and Maintenance(40 – 100+ years)

Disposal(< 1 Year)


“Gate to Gate”



An Example of Life-Cycle Inventory Results

1.0 MSF 3/8-in. Basis Plywood Production





Bio-based Products are Green

  • Bio-based materials use less energy
    • Much less fossil-fuel energy than steel or concrete

Floors: GWP per component


Composites vs. Solid?

  • More manufacturing energy
  • More efficient in other ways
  • More carbon storage

More resin

Some resin feedstock

composites are efficient
Composites are Efficient
  • Solid wood uses 105% more fiber
  • Composite I-joists (EWP) are engineered
    • More efficient use of fiber

Bio-based Products Store Carbon

  • Many wood-based materials store more carbon than is released during their production
  • Composites store more carbon
    • Denser and contain resin
new scope lci of whole houses

New Scope - LCI of Whole Houses

  • Compare houses framed with wood versus concrete/steel
    • Houses are identical otherwise
  • Puts difference among materials in proper context
minneapolis example wood vs steel
Minneapolis Example – Wood vs. Steel

Full Basement

2062 sq.ft. 2 Story

atlanta example wood vs concrete
AtlantaExample: Wood vs. Concrete

2153 sq.ft. 1 story


other studies same results
Other Studies – Same Results
  • 1992 New Zealand study
    • Wood office blg 55% of energy/70% carbon versus concrete
    • Steel wall 4x energy of wood wall
  • 1992, 1993 Cdn studies
    • Wood 1/3 energy and CO2 versus steel and concrete
  • Wood consistently lower emissions and less energy
interpretation environmental improvement opportunities

Redesign the house

use less fossil-intensive products (bio-based is good!)

reduce energy use (both active and passive)

improve durability to increase useful life

Improve the product

greater use of biofuel

engineered products for greater raw materials efficiency

increase process efficiencies, especially in drying

pollution control improvements

increase product durability

Reduce, reuse, and recycle demolition wastes


Review Questions

  • Diagram the life cycle of a bio-based composite
  • Name an environment-related advantage and disadvantage of that product
  • How could the environmental impact of that product be reduced?

The details: Corrim: WWW.CORRIM.ORGAthena: WWW.athenaSMI.caLMS: http://LMS.cfr.washington.eduUSLCI database: