Lijian Ma, Rahman Azari, Mahjoub Elnimeiri

A Building Information Modeling-Based Life Cycle Assessment of the Embodied Carbon and Environmental Impacts of High-Rise Building Structures: A Case Study

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction

High-rise buildings represent technological, urban, and life-style trends of the modern urban landscape, yet there are limited data regarding their embodied carbon and environmental impacts, particularly when compared to low- or mid-rise buildings. Given that the projected growth of the global urban population by 2050 requires cities with higher density and potentially a greater number of high-rise buildings, it is crucial to develop a clear understanding of the embodied carbon and environmental impacts of high-rise buildings. The primary structural materials used in high-rise buildings are reinforced concrete and structural steel. As of today, over 99% of tall buildings’ structures are built from those two materials. This article utilizes a building information modeling (BIM)-based life cycle assessment (LCA) in Revit and Tally to examine the embodied carbon and environmental impacts of an actual high-rise building structure case study in Chicago that uses a hybrid concrete steel structure. The results show that the embodied carbon and environmental impacts of the high-rise building structure are dominated by the impacts of the product stage in the building’s life cycle and by concrete being the main structural material. Specifically, this study reveals that concrete constitutes a substantial 91% share of the total mass of the building structure, with a 74% contribution to the life cycle global warming potential, 53% to the acidification potential, 74% to the eutrophication potential, 74% to the smog formation potential, and 68% to the non-renewable energy usage. On the other hand, steel accounts for 9% of the building’s structure mass, estimated to constitute 26% of the global warming potential, 47% of the acidification potential, 26% of the eutrophication potential, 26% of the smog formation potential, and 32% of the non-renewable energy usage.

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