Assessing the climate change impacts of biogenic carbon in buildings: A critical review of two main dynamic approaches

Article de Charles Breton, Pierre Blanchet, Ben Amor, Robert Beauregard et Wen-Shao Chang

Abstract

Wood is increasingly perceived as a renewable, sustainable building material. The carbon it contains, biogenic carbon, comes from biological processes; it is characterized by a rapid turnover in the global carbon cycle. Increasing the use of harvested wood products (HWP) from sustainable forest management could provide highly needed mitigation efforts and carbon removals. However, the combined climate change benefits of sequestering biogenic carbon, storing it in harvested wood products and substituting more emission-intensive materials are hard to quantify. Although different methodological choices and assumptions can lead to opposite conclusions, there is no consensus on the assessment of biogenic carbon in life cycle assessment (LCA). Since LCA is increasingly relied upon for decision and policy making, incorrect biogenic carbon assessment could lead to inefficient or counterproductive strategies, as well as missed opportunities. This article presents a critical review of biogenic carbon impact assessment methods, it compares two main approaches to include time considerations in LCA, and suggests one that seems better suited to assess the impacts of biogenic carbon in buildings.

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