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6 – Embodied Carbon and Building Codes

This factsheet provides a high-level overview of building codes, explains the ways in which code can address embodied carbon and provides a number of case studies.
Building codes are a comprehensive set of interconnected regulations that are designed to govern new construction, renovations, repairs, and demolitions. In the U.S. and Canada, they are adopted by state/province or local jurisdictions, are enforceable by law, and provide minimum requirements for the design and construction of buildings to protect public health and safety. There are separate codes for commercial and residential buildings and codes that address many different topics of building performance. Some of these include building codes, energy codes, or fire codes, and cover everything from structural design to energy use.

Decades of research on reducing operational energy consumption and the related greenhouse (GHG) emissions have raised awareness of the important role that buildings play in addressing climate change, leading to more energy-efficient codes. In contrast, embodied carbon has been largely excluded from building code conversations until the last few years.

Authors

Michelle Lambert
Meghan Lewis

Graphic Design

Sindhu Raju

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