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Greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle invenroty and cost-efficiency of using laminated wood instead of steel construction

Petersen, A.K. and Solberg, B. (2002) Greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle invenroty and cost-efficiency of using laminated wood instead of steel construction Environmental Science & Policy, 5, (2), pp. 169-182. (doi:10.1016/S1462-9011(01)00044-2).

Record type: Article


This article compares the use of glulam beams at the new airport outside Oslo with an alternative solution in steel in order to (1) make an inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use over the life cycle of glulam and of steel, (2) calculate the avoided GHG emissions and the cost of the substitution, and (3) analyse which factors have the strongest influence on the results. Compared to previous analyses of substitution between steel and glulam related to greenhouse gas emissions, this article brings in three new methodological elements: combining traditional life-cycle analysis with economic costs, considering explicitly the emissions’ points in time, and using discounted global warming potential (DGWP).
The total energy consumption in manufacturing of steel beams is two to three times higher and the use of fossil fuel 6–12 times higher than in the manufacturing of glulam beams. Manufacturing of steel in the most likely scenario gives five times higher GHG emissions compared to manufacturing of glulam beams. Waste handling of glulam can either be very favourable or unfavourable compared to steel depending on the glulam being landfilled or used for energy production. Other assumptions that substantially affect the results over the life cycle are carbon fixation on the forest land that is regenerated after harvesting, whether the steel production is scrap-based or ore-based, and which energy sources are used for producing the electricity used by the steel industry. The uncertainty in the inventory data for glulam do not influence the results much compared to changes in these main assumptions. The glulam construction cannot be more than 1–6% more expensive than steel before the price per ton avoided greenhouse gas emissions becomes high compared to the present Norwegian CO2-tax on gasoline. In the most likely scenario, and not including carbon fixation on forest land, 0.24–0.31 tons of CO2-equivalents per cubic metre input of sawn wood in glulam production is avoided by using glulam instead of steel, whereas this figure increases to 0.40–0.97 t/m3 if carbon fixation on forest land is included. Using DGWP does not influence the results of the analysis significantly.

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Published date: April 2002
Keywords: Greenhouse gas emissions, Life-cycle inventory, Cost-effectiveness, Substitution, Wood, Steel, DGWP


Local EPrints ID: 55812
PURE UUID: ed36dc4d-47e0-4ba9-8893-1958435b8b79

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Date deposited: 06 Aug 2008
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 14:31

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Author: A.K. Petersen
Author: B. Solberg

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