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Comparison of building construction and life-cycle cost for a high-rise mass timber building with its concrete alternative

Formally Refereed
Authors: Hongmei Gu, Shaobo Liang, Richard Bergman
Year: 2020
Type: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Forest Products Laboratory
Source: Forest Products Journal. 20(4): 482-492.


Mass timber building materials such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) have captured attention in mid- to high-rise building designs because of their potential environmental benefits. The recently updated multistory building code also enables greater utilization of these wood building materials. The cost-effectiveness of mass timber buildings is also undergoing substantial analysis. Given the relatively new presence of CLT in United States, high front-end construction costs are expected. This study presents the life-cycle cost (LCC) for a 12-story, 8,360-m2 mass timber building to be built in Portland, Oregon. The goal was to assess its total life-cycle cost (TLCC) relative to a functionally equivalent reinforced-concrete building design using our in-house-developed LCC tool. Based on commercial construction cost data from the RSMeans database, a mass timber building design is estimated to have 26 percent higher front-end costs than its concrete alternative. Front-end construction costs dominated the TLCC for both buildings. However, a decrease of 2.4 percent TLCC relative to concrete building was observed because of the estimated longer lifespan and higher end-of-life salvage value for the mass timber building. The end-of-life savings from demolition cost or salvage values in mass timber building could offset some initial construction costs. There are minimal historical construction cost data and lack of operational cost data for mass timber buildings; therefore, more studies and data are needed to make the generalization of these results. However, a solid methodology for mass timber building LCC was developed and applied to demonstrate several cost scenarios for mass timber building benefits or disadvantages.


Life cycle cost, mass timber building, concrete building, economic impact


Gu, Hongmei; Liang, Shaobo; Bergman, Richard. 2020. Comparison of building construction and life-cycle cost for a high-rise mass timber building with its concrete alternative. Forest Products Journal. 20(4): 482-492.