Building materials capable of reducing upfront carbon to zero are available, code-compliant, and affordable, study shows
by Scott Gibson
Building super-insulated houses with low energy needs and highly efficient mechanical systems is the best way for builders to lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change, right?
Maybe not. A group of builders and designers led by the director of a sustainable building school in Canada has concluded that energy efficiency is only part of the answer, and that accounting for embodied carbon in the materials used to construct houses is much more important than previously believed.
The group, Builders for Climate Action, has published a report stressing the importance of accounting for carbon emissions in the effort to address climate change. Buildings, the report says, can be significant carbon sinks rather than a big part of the carbon problem. (A copy of the report is available here.)
“The response to building-related emissions has been to focus solely on energy efficiency,” the report’s introduction says, “but this may result in initiatives and policies that will raise emissions rather than lower them.”
The authors warn that net-zero building codes will not address the carbon emission problem adequately “within a meaningful time frame.”