Project Lead: Lech Muszynski, OSU College of Forestry

Project Summary: The building sector is a major contributor to human environmental impact through the use of energy, emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and extraction of raw non-renewable materials. Buildings have finite lifespans, and the materials from their end-of-life (EOL) can be either a burden that must be disposed of, or a resource that can be reprocessed and used in place of virgin materials, offsetting associated manufacturing impacts in terms of direct costs and GHG balance.

The technology of building with CLT and other MTPs is relatively “young” and we are just at the beginning of assessing their impacts on the environmental performance in buildings. Current published LCA studies on mass timber products and buildings cover only the cradle-to-gate stages and do not go beyond product fabrication or building construction. This leaves out the assessment of carbon mitigation potential beyond the end of life (EOL) stage when buildings are decommissioned. It is expected that the advantage of MTP over traditional materials will also show in the EOL stage. Historically, building design and construction practices are not concerned with effective EOL material management and neither the economic nor climate impacts at the EOL of MTP buildings and their elements are well understood. The key empirical data essential for the cradle to grave LCA is missing.

The aim of this project is to remove this vulnerability by thoughtful conceptualization of basic strategies for optimizing the design of MTP buildings for successful post-use material recovery/reuse and EOL climate benefit.  Research questions will include:

1.            Is demolition of decommissioned MTP buildings a viable EOL option at all?

2.            Can deconstruction be conducted by following construction steps in reverse order?

3.            What may be the extent of damage inflicted to the connection nests, connected edges and surfaces of MTP elements during a deconstruction?

4.            Can original connection nests be safely reused in structures re-using deconstructed MTP elements?

5.            What is the impact of techniques and technologies selected at the design, production, and construction stages on the EOL options and carbon cost of deconstruction,

6.            What is the carbon impact of deconstruction on reuse or recycling of MTP elements?

7.            Do the existing deconstruction companies in the Pacific northwest have capacity to process mass timber panels that could not be reused?

8.            What is the carbon costs of transportation and repurposing/recycling of MTP elements for non-structural uses?