Timber structural frames have lower embodied carbon than their equivalents in steel or concrete. That is one of several findings in the research paper Whole-life embodied carbon in multi-storey buildings: steel, concrete and timber structures.
Comparisons are made between the whole-life embodied carbon (WLEC) emissions of buildings using identical configurations in steel, reinforced concrete, and engineered timber frames.
These were assessed and compared for no fewer than 127 different frame configurations, from 2 storeys up to 19.
They prove that an engineered timber structure is the soundest design choice for achieving low WLEC. Indeed, the research’s authors admit that timber’s advantages may even be understated in these results. They wanted to ‘stresstest’ their theory that a timber structure would perform better, so made several modelling choices that favoured timber’s rivals.
The research makes a strong case that engineered timber offers a low-carbon option when compared to steel and concrete structural frames (other things being equal).
This advantage provided by timber should be optimised by the industry to construct lower carbon buildings.
On average, the whole-life embodied carbon of the frames built with timber systems was significantly lower than the alternatives.
There is evidence that, within the building height range considered in the research, the taller the structure, the greater the advantage for a timber system compared to the steel and concrete alternatives (in terms of WLEC per m2).
*This article is taken from issue 5 of Designing Timber magazine