As the topic of climate change continues to grow in prominence, it’s growing more difficult to ignore the outsized carbon impact of buildings, which account for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions.
While much of the building energy conversation focuses on operational energy, there is a growing emphasis on the significant impacts of embodied carbon – the emissions associated with earlier building life cycle stages, such as manufacturing and construction.
A recently published life-cycle analysis (LCA) study of the Catalyst Building in Spokane, Washington, highlights the opportunity presented by mass timber to positively impact embodied carbon. Commissioned by Katerra and completed by the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) and Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR), the study found the carbon sequestered in the building’s mass timber structure nearly offsets all of its upfront embodied carbon, making the building carbon neutral.
Catalyst is the first turnkey mass timber building from Katerra, who is serving as the architect, contractor, and mass timber manufacturer. This end-to-end model made it possible to easily study the full mass timber supply chain, offering a view of the environmental impacts from start to finish.
“What’s really unique about this LCA is Katerra’s vertical integration. It offered us the ability to assess impact at the manufacturing and building scale and integrate it into one analysis,” said Kate Simonen, AIA, SE and founding director of the CLF.
The Catalyst is set to complete construction in summer 2020, at which time it aims to be certified by the International Living Future Institute as the first zero-carbon facility in North America.
While mass timber is still a relatively emerging market in North America, it’s clear benefits – efficiency, aesthetics, safety, and environmental – are helping to build momentum towards a future of mass timber buildings, or “plyscrapers,” from coast to coast.