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Hongmei Gu

Hongmei Gu
Research Forest Products Technologist
Statistics, Life Cycle Analysis, and Economics Research
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
United States
Current Research

Carbon Benefits of Harvested Wood Products using Life Cycle Assessment evaluation approach;

Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment for Mass Timber use in tall wood buildings to reduce Embodied Carbon and global warming impacts;

Life Cycle Cost Analysis for mass timber buildings in North American;

Life Cycle Assessment on engineered wood products in building applications and innovative nanocellulose products in high-value applications.


Past Research

Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Cost Analysis for Tall Wood Building in US

Life Cycle Analysis on Biofuel, Bioproducts from forest or mill residues using modular biomass gasification system.

Life Cycle Assessment on Nanocellulose produced from paper pulp at a large scale.

Life Cycle primary energy and carbon footprint of recovering wood from buildings for reuse and comparing to virgin wood building materials.

Assisted the setup of the Cellulose NanoCrystals (CNC) and Cellulose NanoFribrils (CNF) pilot production line at FPL;

Collaborated to develop the innovated 3D Engineered Fiberboard from forest and agricultural residues at FPL and obtained two US patents and one European patent;

Liang, Shaobo; Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard; Kelley, Stephen S. 2020. Comparative life-cycle assessment of a mass timber building and concrete alternative. Wood and Fiber Science. 52(2): 217-229. Chen, Zhongjia; Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard; Liang, Shaobo. 2020. Comparative life-cycle assessment of a high-rise mass timber building with an equivalent reinforced concrete alternative using the Athena Impact Estimator for buildings. Sustainability. 12(11). 15 p. Bergman, Richard; Gu, Hongmei; Alanya-Rosenbaum, Sevda; Liang, Shaobo. 2019. Comparative life-cycle assessment of biochar activated carbon and synthesis gas electricity with commercially available alternatives. Gen. Tech. Rep. FPL-GTR-270. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 1-32. Liang, Shaobo; Bergman, Richard; Gu, Hongmei. 2018. Workflow for publishing forestry LCI data through the LCA commons: a case study. Research Note FPL-RN-0364. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory:  p. 1-6. Liang, Shaobo; Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard D. 2017. Life cycle assessment of cellulosic ethanol and biomethane production from forest residues. BioResources. 12(4): 7873-7883. Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard. 2017. Cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment of syngas electricity from woody biomass residues. Wood and Fiber Science. 49(2): 177-192. Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard. 2016. Life-cycle assessment of a distributed-scale thermochemical bioenergy conversion system. Wood and Fiber Science. 48(2): 129-141. Bergman, Richard D.; Zhang, Hanwen; Englund, Karl; Windell, Keith; Gu, Hongmei. 2016. Estimating GHG emissions from the manufacturing of field-applied biochar pellets. In: Proceedings of the 59th International Convention of Society of Wood Science and Technology. 6-10 March 2016; Curitiba, Brazil. p. 139-149. Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard. 2015. Life-cycle GHG emissions of electricity from syngas produced by pyrolyzing woody biomass. Proceedings of the 58th International Convention of Society of Wood Science and Technology June 7-12, 2015 Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA, pp. 376-389. Bergman, Richard; Gu, Hongmei. 2014. Life-Cycle Inventory Analysis of Bioproducts from a Modular Advanced Biomass Pyrolysis System. In: Proceedings, Society of Wood Science and Technology 57th International Convention. June 23-27, 2014. Zvolen, Slovakia: 2014; pp. 405-415. Bergman, Richard D.; Falk, Robert H.; Gu, Hongmei; Napier, Thomas R.; Meil, Jamie. 2013. Life-cycle energy and GHG emissions for new and recovered softwood framing lumber and hardwood flooring considering end-of-life scenarios. Res. Pap. FPL-RP-672. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 35 p. Bergman, Richard D.; Gu, Hongmei; Napier, Thomas R.; Salazar, James; Falk, Robert H. 2012. Life cycle primary energy and carbon analysis of recovering softwood framing lumber and hardwood flooring for reuse. In: Proceedings , Instruments for Green Futures Markets, American Center for Life Cycle Assessment XI Conference, October 4-6, 2011; copyright 2012. pp. 44-52.
Research Interest

Carbon Life Cycle Assessment for US Forest management and Products Applications.

Carbon benefits from mass timber and other engineered wood products in building applications.

Environmental Building Declaration for mass timber buildings in North American.

Environmental impacts from Biofuel, Bioproducts and newly developed biocomposite from woody biomass using Life Cycle Analysis techniques.

Environmental impacts from biomass Nanocellulose production and applications.

Why This Research Is Important

Wood products, especially the emerging mass timber products, biobased energy products and biobased nanocellulose are playing significant roles to help reduce the GHG emissions and achieve the COP26 Paris Agreement's 1.5°C carbon budget goal.  
Life Cycle Assessment is an international recognized, scientific tool to quantify the GHG emissions and evaluate the environmental and health impacts from a product or service. The assessment results can provide strategies to product improvement and better practices in order to achieve carbon-neutral objective in various sectors.
Conducting the Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment on Mass Timber buildings has helped the building architects and industry to capture the reduction impacts in GHG emission for the entire building sector, which generates nearly 50% of the global annual CO2 emission, if switching concrete and steel materials to mass timber products.

Building Life cycle cost (LCC) analysis is an economic tool to examine the cost-effectiveness of building designs or explore trade-offs between initial costs and long-term cost savings, and to identify cost-effective systems for a given application. Mass Timber buildings will need LCC to evaluate such cost competitiveness and economic impacts.

Life-cycle inventories (LCIs) and Life-cycle assessments (LCAs) of wood products are critically needed 1) to support LCA calculations and material selection decisions under Green Building codes and standards and 2) to provide data needed for environmental products declarations for wood products and thereby maintain their competitiveness.

LCI and LCA information can aid wood product manufactureres and users by identifying and modifying processess that have the highest environmental impacts and thereby reduce the overall emissions. These information can also provide the policy makers with the insights to lead sustainable management practices in the forest products industries.

Pasternack, Rachel; Wishnie, Mark; Clarke, Caitlin; Wang, Yangyang; Belair, Ethan; Marshall, Steve; Gu, Hongmei; Nepal, Prakash; Dolezal, Franz; Lomax, Guy; Johnston, Craig; Felmer, Gabriel; Morales-Vera, Rodrigo; Puettmann, Maureen; Van den Huevel, Robyn. 2022. What Is the Impact of Mass Timber Utilization on Climate and Forests?. Sustainability. 14(2): 758. Gu, Hongmei; Liang, Shaobo; Pierobon, Francesca; Puettmann, Maureen; Ganguly, Indroneil; Chen, Cindy; Pasternack, Rachel; Wishnie, Mark; Jones, Susan; Maples, Ian. 2021. Mass Timber Building Life Cycle Assessment Methodology for the U.S. Regional Case Studies. Sustainability. 13(24): 14034. Gu, H.; Nepal, P.; Arvanitis, M.; Alderman, D. 2021. Carbon impacts of engineered wood products in construction. Chapter 8. In: Gong, M. (ed.) Engineered wood products for construction. London: IntechOpen. 358 pp. DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.99193. Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard; Anderson, Nathaniel; Alanya-Rosenbaum, Sevda. 2018. Life cycle assessment of activated carbon from woody biomass. Wood and Fiber Science. 50(3): 229-243. Liang, Shaobo; Gu, Hongmei; Bergman, Richard. 2021. Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment and Life-Cycle Cost Analysis of a High-Rise Mass Timber Building: A Case Study in Pacific Northwestern United States. Sustainability. 13(14): 7831.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Ph.D., Wood Science and Forest Products, 2001
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, M.S., Wood Science and Forest Products, 1998
  • Beijing Forestry University, B.S., Timber Engineering, 1991
Professional Experience
  • Research Forest Products Technologist,  USDA Forest Products Laboratory ,  2013 - Current
    Engaging in advancing forest biomass utilization and greenhouse gas emission reduction using the life cycle assessment tool, bolstering innovation of wood use in green building designs and nanocellulose in value-added applications.
  • President, Founder,  B-One Technology Consulting, LLC,  2008 - 2013
    Assisted Forest Products Lab with developing the first pilot line for mass production of Cellulose NanoCrystal(CNC) and Cellulose NanoFibrils(CNF) from pulp; Studied carbon footprints for recycled wood building materials and comparing the environmental impacts between the reused materials and virgin building materials; Developed the patented 3D-engineered fiberboard using recycled or agricultural fibers;
Professional Organizations
  • Associate Editor (Editorial Board),  Forest Products Society (FPS),  2022 - Current
    review and find reviewers for the submitted research papers, make recommendation for publishing or not publishing based on the reviewers' feedback, assist to arrange publication for the Journal (Forest Products Journal). Forest Products Journal (FPJ) is the source of information for industry leaders, researchers, teachers, students, and everyone interested in today's forest products industry. The Forest Products Journal is well respected for publishing high-quality peer-reviewed technical research findings at the applied or practical level that reflect the current state of wood science and technology.
  • Board Of Directors,  Society of Wood Science and Technology (SWST),  2021 - Current
    The Board is responsible for planning, coordinating, communicating and managing all Society activities, including decisions related to maintaining the normal business operations of the organization and proposing, adopting, and managing the budget of the Society. Activities include conducting annual meetings, nominations and election of Directors, etc.
  • Officeholder,  IUFRO Working Party 5.12.01- Life Cycle Analysis of Forest Products,  2016 - Current
    To lead a Research Group in its scientific and business activities; To initiate and encourage the organization of meetings and scientific study tours of the Research Group and Working Parties between Congresses, to organize Research Group meetings during Congresses, to be responsible for the programme of these meetings, and normally to act as their Chair; To suggest topics or problems to involve the Research Group; To propose the programmes of work of the IUFRO Research Group and Working Parties; To prepare and distribute periodic reports of the Research Group activities To arrange for publications related to the Research Group activities;
  • Member,  Forest Products Society (FPS),  1997 - Current
    Presenting research at the annual conferences; being a judge for Students' Poster competition;
  • Member,  Society of Wood Science and Technology (SWST),  1997 - Current
    Presenting research at SWST annual conferences; reviewing manuscripts for the Wood & Fiber Science journal related to wood physics and wood composite. Was one-term member of Wood Adward Committee, evaluating the candidates' award papers.
  • Chair Of The Visiting Scientist Committee,  Society of Wood Science and Technology (SWST),  1997 - 2007
    Update the Visiting Scientists profile, communicating with the members, soliciting the applications, and evaluating the applications.
Awards & Recognition
  • Wood Engineering Award by Forest Products Society, 2022
    The L.J. Markwardt Wood Engineering Award recognizes the author(s) of a Forest Products Journal or Wood and Fiber Science technical paper published during the previous two years that has the most outstanding merit in the field of wood engineering.
  • 2nd Place of George Marra Award by Sciety of Wood Science and Technology (SWST) , 2021
    The Award recognizes excellence in writing and research, given to the papers published in the four quarterly issues of Wood and Fiber Science Journal.
  • 1st Place of George Marra Award by Sciety of Wood Science and Technology (SWST) , 2019
    The Award recognizes excellence in writing and research, given to the papers published in the four quarterly issues of Wood and Fiber Science Journal.
  • Patent, 2013
    Engineered Modeled Fiberboard Panels and Products Fabricated from the Panels
  • The Best of Technical Paper Award, 2004
    Won the award while attending and presenting a paper on "Finite Element Analyses of Two Dimensional, Anisotropic Heat Transfer in Wood using ANSYS" at the 2004 International ANSYS Conference
Featured Publications
Other Publications