Design to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

There is general agreement that we have to slow the growth in carbon emissions and then shrink those emissions. Buildings consistently emerge as the best opportunity to reduce emissions.


According to, climate change has emerged as the dominant environmental concern of our times, and buildings, as a sector of the economy, represent the most cost-effective opportunity for reducing carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions.

Estimating the carbon footprint of a building can be quite simple or enormously complex, depending on what one needs the estimate to do. The simple approach addresses only operating energy and accepts broad-brush assumptions about CO 2 emissions from electricity generation. More sophisticated approaches, which are not yet well established, add other emissions into the mix, including those from transportation, construction, water, materials, and waste management. These more complicated calculations also include greenhouse gasses other than CO 2 .

To achieve long-term carbon-reduction benefits, strategies such as appropriate massing and orientation that are likely to hold up well over time are better than strategies based on mechanical equipment or purchasing policies, which might not last. Client commitment is important for achieving a low-carbon building, and it’s easier to get that commitment if the emissions are expressed in terms that non-scientists can relate to, such as acres of forest or cars taken off the road.

Read the full story: Counting Carbon: Understanding Carbon Footprints of Buildings

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