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Issue 4.2

Mass(ive) Timber: Examining the Thermally Massive Behavior of Mass Timber Construction

While the embodied carbon benefits of mass timber are well studied, numerous claims regarding mass timber as thermal mass lack substantive evidence. This work examines to what extent mass timber is thermally massive compared to wood stud and concrete constructions, and how this behavior contributes to a building’s life cycle carbon. The work applies energy simulations and life cycle assessment, working across three temporal scales: daily decrement in peak temperature, annual cooling energy and overheating hours, and life cycle carbon. The results suggest that for a residence, mass timber can offer about half the operational carbon benefits of equivalently scaled concrete thermal mass. In Los Angeles and Seattle mass timber reduced life cycle carbon (sum of embodied and operational) by 19-60% compared to concrete.

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