Environmental Impact of Mass Plywood Panels


Mass timber products are often selected for their perceived sustainability advantages, and a lifecycle analysis for an Oregon-based CLT manufacturing facility is being completed. This project will assess the environmental impacts of mass plywood panel manufacturing, a new product that has become available commercially in Oregon in 2018. It will examine material flow, energy type and use, emissions to air and water, solid waste production and water impacts for the MPP manufacturing process on a per unit volume basis using a cradle-to-gate lifecycle assessment process. The data will be available for stakeholders to use for informational and learning purposes and to assist in determining the sustainability of mass timber building projects.

Project Duration: 7/1/18-6/30/19

Project Lead: Arijit Sinha

Facilities: Freres Lumber Company

Standards: ISO14040/140444



Mass timber construction is gaining momentum across North America (Dezeen Daily 2015). By virtue of its location, culture, massive timber resources, and a conscious and vibrant society, Pacific Northwest is the epicenter of the mass timber movement. This is evident from the fact that the first facility of two main products catering to mass timber construction, cross-laminated timber (CLT) and mass plywood panel (MPP), are situated in Oregon. As sustainability is driving material choices in construction, these products are a natural fit for structures claiming to be green. Due to lack of a sustainability metric it is hard to quantify the environmental impacts of these mass timber products (Sinha et al. 2013). As a first step, PI has already conducted a life cycle analysis (LCA) for a CLT manufacturing facility located in Riddle, OR. The data will be peer reviewed and uploaded in the USLCI database maintained by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This is the only existing data point for US CLT, which will allow practitioners to quantify environmental impacts of structures using CLT and compare them with other alternatives. As MPP is an alternative, it is imperative to characterize the environmental impacts of MPP and make it available to engineers, architects, and other stakeholders, which will allow them to make informed decisions regarding material choices.

The goal of this study is to determine energy and material inputs and outputs associated with the production of MPP produced by Freres Lumber Company in Lyons, Oregon, USA using a cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment. It covers the impact in terms of material flow, energy type and use, emissions to air and water, solid waste production, and water impacts for the MPP manufacturing process on a per unit volume basis of 1.0 cubic meter.

Research Details:

An LCA is a quantitative approach for assessing and interpreting the environmental impacts of a product. LCA involves quantifying the energy and resource flows from nature (i.e. "inputs") as well as air, water, and land emissions back to nature (i.e. "outputs'). These flows, called the life cycle inventory (LCI), are quantified in terms of mass and energy balance relationships within industrial processes. The life cycle inventory is related to the environmental impacts that they cause based on cause-effect models developed by scientists with expertise as to the drivers of sustainability issues (e.g. climate change experts, ecologists, etc.). The LCA is derived from data provided by manufacturers on their inputs and outputs, which is aggregated to produce an average environmental profile for the product. That profile can represent the average for a company, region, nation, or be North America wide.



Increased focus on sustainability has led to inquiry related to sustainability metric for a product or a system. The results from this project will quantify the environmental impacts associated with MPP from a life cycle standpoint. The data will then be available for stakeholders to use for informational purposes as well as to draw comparison between other building products. FLC has created this new product from renewable resources. Consequently, FLC is facilitating economic development in a rural part of Oregon through a new facility and creating jobs in the community. This project will provide a sustainability metric for the product using LCA that will be helpful in the future for market acceptance of MPP.