Since the 1970s, human resource consumption has been exceeding the provisions that the earth can renew in a year. That means we are overexerting the earth more than it is able to naturally recover. A huge amount of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere through industry, vehicles, burning fossil fuels, or even respiration of living things and plants.
As the consequences of the climate change keep becoming clearer, both governments and private sector companies are setting targets for carbon emission reductions, since these are regarded as the main greenhouse gases, and their high concentration in the atmosphere leads to air pollution and acid rain, among other consequences.
A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Each and every building also has a carbon footprint. A building’s footprint is defined as the amount of CO2 it produces and releases during its operations and activities.
The construction industry has a significant impact, with materials and construction products causing carbon dioxide emissions in activities such as mining, transportation, factories, and combining chemical products. The concept of carbon embodiment addresses the sum total of the impact of all the greenhouse gases emitted attributing to materials throughout their lifetime (soil extraction, manufacturing, construction, utilization/maintenance, and end-of-life/disposal). Carbon neutralization is an alternative that seeks to avoid the consequences of the imbalance of the greenhouse effect, from a calculation of carbon emission. Although this subject seems broad, far-fetched and almost oblivious to us, the materials you choose and the way you work with them have a footprint that you should, and could, consider.
Following are some points to be taken into consideration to reduce the carbon footprint in projects:
Starting Early and Basic
It is better and advisable to evaluate and measure a building design’s carbon footprint. That is the stage when most changes and alterations are possible. A part of this early planning and evaluation involves the life cycle assessment of materials and structure, which is the basis of carbon footprint. Resulting in a set of lifecycle inventory data detailing the environmental impact per unit of the product.
HVAC comprises almost 40% of the total carbon emission. Incorporating an efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, along with efficient operations and scheduled maintenance of such systems, may help in reducing carbon footprint to a huge extent. The ventilation keeps running even when not required. This wastes energy resources. Installing a low-energy humidifier instead of a typical electric steam humidifier will help in considerably reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Also, equipping a building with sensors that can measure indoor air quality and determine how much ventilation is required, helps decrease the wastage. This means less electricity and natural gas will be needed for the HVAC system, which not only lowers the energy bills but also reduces the building’s carbon footprint.
Usage of state-of-the-art lighting and optimized natural light. In a typical commercial building, 30% of the energy is utilized by the lighting. Solar thermal gains reduce the carbon footprint. Too much solar thermal gain, increases the need to cool the building and usage of energy resources, during summers and too little solar thermal gain increases the need to heat the building, during winters. Solar control windows films can help reduce the carbon footprint by reducing energy consumption by 30%.
Recycling Content and Matter
Specify recycled content building and interior materials. Choose recyclable building materials that have fewer negative effects on the environment. Support green suppliers and vendors that embrace green practices. Metal building systems are the ideal product for sustainability as steel is the most recycled material on the planet. Producing steel through recycling also uses significantly less energy than conventional steelmaking. The typical metal building is manufactured from at least 70 per cent recycled steel. Steel is 100 per cent recyclable, sustainable, and less is needed for building a frame. Hence it is an excellent framing material to help reduce a building’s total carbon footprint.
A huge factor contributing to a building’s carbon footprint is the amount of energy required to supply, treat, and use its water. Water oriented strategies help in reducing the energy resources and greenhouse gases emission. Designing for water conservation, efficiency and reuse are among the largest and most cost-effective energy and carbon reduction strategies available. Installing efficient fixtures and appliances can reduce water usage. Using rainwater as a valuable water source helps us in reducing the usage of energy resources. Rainwater harvesting has a low environmental footprint because it’s not pumped long distances. Water for flushing toilets, irrigation, and washing machines does not need to be potable, so using rainwater direct from a building’s roof lowers carbon footprint.
Renewable Energy Resources
The carbon footprint of a building can be reduced by using operational alternate energy resources available or by generating renewable energy on-site. Usage of photovoltaic cells on the walls, facades, or roof of the buildings for solar air heating, solar electric photovoltaic (PV) systems, or solar water heating can permanently eliminate part of the demand for conventional energy. A solar PV system will generate electricity that can be used to offset the building’s conventional electric source. Solar water systems generate thermal energy to offset the heating of water. And they have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years.
A building’s location will always have a direct and greater impact on a building’s carbon footprint. The building should be aligned along the east-west axis, maximizing the north and south side glazing. Where a building is built will impact the carbon footprint and the potential for carbon build-up in the landscape. Also, siting the building near public transportation reduces its carbon footprint.
Seeing as to how the world of architecture is trying to contribute to this issue, it has taken a primary role in the process of change. New solutions and materials are being developed at a high pace, and there are many examples of buildings and urban designs coming up that promote the concept of carbon neutrality. There is no doubt that this topic is essential and there is a need to discuss this now and in the future. The carbon footprint is a big-looming footprint set out to crush us, if not taken care of.