Carbon Neutrality Now, Not Later
In 2005, Architecture 2030 issued the 2030 Challenge, which called on the building community to achieve carbon neutrality incrementally over the course of 25 years. Recent publication of the Climate Report by the IPCC has made it clear that 2030 may be too late. To meet our carbon budget and mitigate the effects of climate change, all new buildings must be designed, constructed, and operated to be as close as possible to carbon neutral today.
Many people associate carbon emissions with energy use. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), carbon dioxide emissions related to buildings represents 40% of U.S. emissions. This includes energy used for lighting, heating, cooling and appliance operation. In addition to operational energy, it is estimated that another 8% of carbon emissions is tied to embodied energy, which is emissions associated with the manufacture, transport, and assembly of building materials such as wood, concrete and steel.
As consultants that support the delivery of high performance, healthy buildings, Verdacity is taking steps to reduce carbon emissions related to both operational and embodied energy. Our analyses include the evaluation of energy conservation measures related to building systems (HVAC, lighting, water), the quantification of carbon impacts related to building materials, and occupant education (how people use their buildings).
Here are some simple ways that a consulting firm can help you better understand your carbon impact and make decisions about how to achieve a net zero project:
Building Systems: A Simple Box Energy Model provides a quick overview of how energy is used in the building. This allows designers to target reduction measures related to insulation types, glazing, heating and cooling systems, lighting, and controls.
Building Materials: A Material Lifecycle Impact Assessment (Material LCIA) assigns an environmental footprint to building materials. Options are provided to reduce the impact of material choices and layouts of footings and foundations, walls, floor, and roof assemblies.
Occupant Education: Policies related to how office and cleaning supplies, furniture and products related to facility renovations are procured and disposed of provide a framework to reduce environmental impacts and support cultural change.
Once you have quantified your carbon footprint and prioritized efficiency measures, as a final step towards carbon neutrality, it is recommended that on-site and off-site options for renewable energy be evaluated and implemented.