IBPSA-USA Boston Chapter: Embodied Carbon and LCA

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Please join the Boston Chapter of IBPSA-USA for a networking session over Zoom and presentations from Irmak Turan and Aurora Jensen covering topics in embodied carbon, life cycle analysis (LCA), and materials recycling.

IBPSA-Boston promotes the science of building performance simulation in order to improve new and existing buildings worldwide while connecting Boston-area practioners. 

Please spread the word among your colleagues in the Boston area! Stay informed about this event and future ones by signing up for our email list and joining our LinkedIn group. Contact ibpsa.boston@gmail.com with any questions.

Presentation 1: From Sink to Stock: The Potential for Recycling Materials from the Existing Built Environment

The urban built environment maintains the alluring prospect of being a source for our future resource needs. This work imagines new local recycling paradigms for concrete and masonry waste within an existing urban environment. Using Lisbon, Portugal as a case study, we proposed three context-specific material recycling scenarios to make use of mineral construction waste generated as the city’s aging residential building stock is replaced over the next 30 years. We compared four scenarios – three recycling proposals and standard landfill disposal – in terms of production potential, land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and cost. The results show that from both an environmental and economic standpoint, recycling is not always the optimal solution. The impacts depend not only on the recycling processes and end uses, but also the avoided and added burdens consequent to changes in the existing system. Through this analysis, we identified the limiting factors and potential opportunities for improvement in the current processes of construction material reuse and recycling, in Lisbon and beyond.

Presenter: Irmak Turan

Irmak Turan, Ph.D., is a Lecturer in the School of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a designer and building scientist examining the impact of buildings on societal and environmental systems across spatial and temporal scales. She explores new ways of combining statistical, analytical, and design methods to study the effects of buildings on people and the planet. In her current research, Irmak evaluates the economic value of design. Her doctoral dissertation measures the financial premium of daylight and views in urban office spaces. The work merges methods of computational building performance simulation and real estate econometrics using spatial and quantitative city-wide data.

Prior to her position in academia, she practiced for six years as an environmental designer with Buro Happold in New York and Henning Larsen Architects in Istanbul. Irmak received her Ph.D. (2020) and M.S. (2016) in Building Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She holds both a B.A. in Architecture and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Columbia University.

Presentation 2: Missing the Trees for the Forest: Nuances in Mass Timber Design

Mass timber construction has been popularized as a pathway to low-carbon building. While the opportunities of designing with timber are substantial, not all mass timber buildings are equally beneficial. Drawing from academia and practice, this session aims to illuminate some of the nuances at play in designing with mass timber. First we will examine how embodied carbon varies across nine mass timber structural options for an eight-story residential project. Second we will explore timber’s behavior as thermal mass at the scale of a rowhouse and how this folds into projections of life cycle carbon. Finally, we will interrogate the challenges of comparing extractive and regenerative supply chains using LCA, considering forestry management and biogenic carbon.

Presenter: Aurora Jensen

Aurora is an energy analyst and sustainability consultant in Buro Happold’s New York office. Her work negotiates multiple scales of environmental concerns—from microscale heat flows to macroscale supply chains—by linking passive, active, and materials design decisions to climate. At Buro Happold, she acts as a technical advisor for the development of an open-source LCA toolkit and was awarded R&D funding to grow that effort. She also leads the life cycle assessments on two USDA Wood Innovation Grants focused on mass timber construction. Prior to joining Buro Happold, Aurora received her Masters’ in Design Studies in Energy and Environment with distinction from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.