Our research investigates and provides recommended methods of assembling mass timber buildings using materials more efficiently, integrating mechanical and other systems typically required in life science buildings, with the goal of making the environmental benefits of mass timber more attractive to life science developers and end users.
Life science buildings are one of the most important architectural typologies in the post pandemic world. In these places, scientists work and collaborate to invent life-saving medicine and technology. Traditionally, steel or concrete structures are the go-to construction systems to meet the more stringent structural and mechanical requirements. These carbon-intensive systems amplify the environmental impact from the operation of life science buildings, which generally consume more energy and resources than other commercial office buildings.
Our research investigates different methods of assembling a mass timber building that uses materials more efficiently while integrating mechanical and other systems typically required in life science buildings, with the goal of making the environmental benefits of mass timber more attractive to life science developers and end users. First, we explored ways of assembling CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) panels into ɪ-shaped sections that significantly increase the efficiency of material use and provide a much stiffer floor section. Second, we looked at how these components could be assembled into a floor system that integrated the larger mechanical and distribution systems that life science buildings typically require. Third, we created a prototype mass timber life science building design and analyzed the reduction of embodied carbon and other positive environmental attributes.
To ensure this re-thinking could provide tangible and applicable benefits, we created baseline floor framing models for steel, concrete, conventional mass timber, and CLT/steel hybrid systems with similar bay sizes and target vibration performance. These models allowed us to make apples-to-apples comparisons of material quantities and embodied carbon and demonstrate that our approach could provide tangible benefits for real projects.
Our research demonstrates that carbon can be reduced in life science buildings through thoughtful re-imagining of the structural system. Our proposed CLT assembly design can yield appropriate floor-to-floor heights, adequate vibration, and open, flexible floor plates. The system can easily accommodate laboratory benches and equipment, mechanical and electrical distribution systems, and other life science program requirements. The resulting building design can be innovative and dynamic, with inspiring interiors. Our proposed mass timber design can be more efficient and have better performance than traditional steel and concrete structures.
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