Comparative study of greenhouse gas emissions between off-site prefabrication and conventional construction methods: Two case studies of residential projects

Chao Mao, Qiping Shen, Liyin Shen, Liyaning Tang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

243 Citations (Scopus)


Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the construction stage will be more relatively significant over time. Different construction methods influence GHG emissions in the construction phase. This study investigates the differences of GHG emissions between prefabrication and conventional construction methods. This study sets a calculation boundary and five emission sources for the semi-prefabricated construction process: embodied emissions of building materials, transportation of building materials, transportation of construction waste and soil, transportation of prefabricated components, operation of equipment, and construction techniques. A quantitative model is then established using a process-based method. A semi-prefabrication project and a conventional construction project in China are employed for preliminary examination of the differences in GHG emissions. Results show that the semi-prefabrication method produces less GHG emissions per square meter compared with the conventional construction, with the former producing 336 kg/m2and the latter generating 368 kg/m2. The largest proportion of total GHG emissions comes from the embodied emissions of building materials, accounting for approximately 85%. Four elements that positively contribute to reduced emissions are the embodied GHG emissions of building materials, transportation of building materials, resource consumption of equipment and techniques, and transportation of waste and soil, accounting for 86.5%, 18.3%, 10.3%, and 0.2%, respectively, of reduced emissions; one a negative effect on reduced emissions is the transportation of prefabricated components, which offsets 15.3% of the total emissions reduction. Thus, adopting prefabricated construction methods contribute to significant environmental benefits on GHG emissions in this initial study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-176
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy and Buildings
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2013


  • Conventional construction
  • Emissions
  • Environmental impact
  • Greenhouse gas
  • Prefabrication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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