Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Environmental costs of home construction lower with wise choice, reuse of building materials

27.08.2004


Researchers comparing two versions of this typical Minneapolis house – 2,100 square feet in size and built to code – determined that building the structure using steel framing would use 17 percent more energy than building it with wood framing. Graphic credit: CORRIM


Most of the energy that goes into building U.S. homes is consumed – not by the power tools, welding and trucking during construction – but during the manufacture of the building materials, according to a comprehensive life-cycle assessment comparing typical wood-, steel- and concrete-frame homes.

Using the least energy-intensive building materials – and taking steps toward such things as recycling and reusing more building materials – makes sense considering the nation’s energy concerns and attendant issues of pollution and global warming, according to University of Washington’s Bruce Lippke, professor of forest resources. He and 22 other authors recently published a report tallying the environmental impact of home construction.

Considering the energy required to produce building materials, construct, maintain and demolish a house on a time period of 75 years is one part of a cradle-to-grave analysis known as a life-cycle assessment. In this case researchers determined that the construction of a hypothetical Minneapolis steel-frame home used 17 percent more energy than the matching wood-frame home. Constructing the study’s hypothetical Atlanta concrete-frame home used 16 percent more energy than a matching wood-frame house. The designs in both cases were typical of homes in those regions.



Choosing construction materials wisely is significant, Lippke says, because building 1.7 million houses using wood-, steel- and concrete-frame construction each year consumes as much energy as heating and cooling 10 million or more homes a year. Better material selection and house design could reduce energy use during home construction substantially, he says.

The energy tallied for the study included not just electricity but also such things as diesel and fuel oil to extract and haul materials, natural gas to generate steam in lumber mills and electricity for steel mills.

"Everything kind of flows from energy consumption," Lippke says. "If you’re using energy, you’re polluting water, polluting air and kicking out carbon dioxide emissions."

Indeed, the carbon emissions associated with energy use represented one of the more important environmental impacts, the report says. The researchers considered, for example, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions generated during the life cycles of the homes, as well as the length of time these greenhouse gases linger in the atmosphere, to determine the global warming potential of different construction materials. They estimate the global-warming potential of the steel-frame home to be 26 percent higher than the wood-frame, and the concrete-frame home was 31 percent higher than the comparable wood-frame.

The use of wood products instead of steel or concrete can farther reduce the greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels wherever lumber mills generate power and heat using bark, sawdust and other byproducts of milling. More than half the energy required by mills currently comes from these residuals, a renewable source of energy compared to fossil fuels.

Two designs of typical houses were analyzed in the study by the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials, a research group started by 15 universities and research institutes, see http://www.corrim.org/. The $1 million effort was supported by those institutions, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, U.S. Department of Energy and major wood-product manufacturers.

A 12-page summary recently published in the Forest Products Journal and the full report are available at http://www.corrim.org/reports/. Life-cycle inventory international protocol experts reviewed the report and information from this study is slated to become part of the life-cycle inventory database for the designers and engineers at http://www.nrel.gov/lci/.

A 2,100-square-foot house designed for the cold Minneapolis climate was used to compare wood-frame with steel-frame construction while a 2,200-square-foot house was designed for the hot and humid Atlanta climate was used to compare wood-frame with concrete-frame construction.

There are a number of products other than wood that are common to all the designs, such as glass for windows, gypsum for wall board and sheathing, asphalt roofing and concrete for such things as foundations. Concrete products, for example, make up between 72 and 78 percent of the mass of the hypothetical homes that are not concrete-frame. These materials are energy-intensive on their own and make up the largest percentage of the energy required for home construction.

The report offers many suggestions of other opportunities to reduce the energy demands of home construction that include:

Redesigning houses to use less fossil-fuel intensive products;
Changing building codes that result in excessive use of wood, steel and concrete
Recycling demolition wastes;
Increasing durability of homes through improved products, construction designs and maintenance practices.

The Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials has started a new $1 million research project that expands the current effort to include all U.S. wood-product supply regions, other non-structural wood products and additional research on design and process changes to reduce environmental burdens.

Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.u.washington.edu
http://www.corrim.org/reports/
http://www.nrel.gov/lci/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Electron sandwich doubles thermoelectric performance
20.06.2018 | Hokkaido University

nachricht Agrophotovoltaics Goes Global: from Chile to Vietnam
20.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Creating a new composite fuel for new-generation fast reactors

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Game-changing finding pushes 3D-printing to the molecular limit

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Could this material enable autonomous vehicles to come to market sooner?

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>