Comparative Carbon Footprint Analysis of Bamboo and Steel Scaffolding
Paul F. Laleicke
|Published in:||Journal of Green Building, April 2015, n. 1, v. 10|
Building construction and maintenance is one of the major contributors to global warming and as a result has the potential to be a leader in sustainable development. Scaffolding systems are an important component of building construction, especially high-rise buildings. A scaffold consists of a modular system of metal or bamboo tubes or pipes. Scaffolding is a temporary construction structure created for reaching heights above a human's reach, with the purpose of helping in construction or maintenance of a structure. The scaffolding industry in the US is dominated by steel. In areas where bamboo is indigenous, like many East Asian cities, bamboo is the scaffolding material of choice, even when it comes to high-rise buildings. Our goal was to analyze bamboo and steel thoroughly and establish their environmental impacts using life cycle analysis (LCA). Consequently, this study explores the ecological viability in expanding the use of bamboo scaffolding where steel predominates. The functional units used in this study are bamboo and steel scaffolding systems that are 2.74 m high, 2.49 m wide, and 1.21 m deep. A cradle-to-gate LCA was performed to evaluate the environmental performance of the two scaffolding systems. Our results suggest that bamboo scaffolding has a lower carbon footprint than steel scaffolding, with an ability to sequester carbon during its growth phase being a significant contributing factor. This is an important advantage of bamboo over nonrenewable materials (steel). Additionally, bamboo functions as a buffer, delaying the release of CO2 after the use phase. The main challenge for any scaffolding system made from renewable materials in the western world is the demand for standardization. Therefore, an ideal future goal should be the design of standardized scaffolding systems using renewable materials that combines the durability and homogeneity of steel scaffolding with the sustainability and environmental performance of bamboo scaffolding.
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