Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Opportunities for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage in Building Materials
The “upfront” embodied carbon (EC) of building materials includes the accumulated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from harvesting, manufacturing and transportation processes, and is becoming more widely recognized as a major source of global GHGs. The aim of this study is to demonstrate the potential for buildings to go beyond reduced or zero GHG emissions and to become– at least temporarily – a negative emissions technology, namely places of net storage of carbon. The study examines the EC for two samples of low-rise residential buildings that are representative of the North American wood-framed typology: a single-unit raised bungalow of 185m2 and an eight-unit, four-story of 935 m2. Data from Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for a wide variety of materials that could feasibly be used to construct the sample buildings are used to calculate the total EC for four different material assemblies in each building type: High EC, Typical EC, Best Conventional EC and Best EC. Results demonstrate the upfront embodied carbon can vary widely, ranging from a worst-case scenario of 415 kgCO2e/m2 of net emissions to a best case of 170 kgCO2e/m2 of net carbon storage by using biogenic (plant-based) materials. In addition, an energy modeling analysis of the buildings was conducted for the Toronto, Ontario climate to compare the EC with the operational carbon (OC) emissions. The results show that achievable reductions in EC could provide more than four times the overall GHG reductions than energy efficiency improvements to reduce OC between 2020 and 2050. The building model with both the lowest EC and OC is shown to have net carbon storage for several centuries. At the current scale of US residential construction, annual carbon storage in residential buildings as modeled could reach 30,000,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 10 coal-fired power plants. The immediate impact of large-scale GHG reductions from the use of carbon-storing materials is demonstrated to be worthy of consideration for the building industry and related policy makers. Author Keywords: Biogenic carbon, Carbon accounting, Embodied carbon, Energy efficiency, Life cycle analysis, Operation emissions

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2009 - 2029
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Format: 2019/12/12

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