In a significant step towards greener construction, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the International Code Council (ICC) have collaborated on a proposed standard for measuring and documenting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across a building’s entire life cycle. This draft standard, open for public review until March 18, 2024, sets the stage for a crucial tool in reducing the construction industry’s carbon footprint.
Beyond Operational Efficiency:
For decades, building codes and energy efficiency standards have focused on reducing a building’s operational emissions – the energy it consumes during its lifetime. However, this new standard expands the scope to include embodied carbon emissions, which account for the GHGs released during the material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, construction, and eventual demolition of a building.
Why It Matters:
Embodied carbon emissions represent a significant and often overlooked portion of a building’s overall carbon footprint. Studies suggest they can account for anywhere from 10% to 40% of a building’s total emissions, depending on the materials used and construction methods employed.
By establishing a consistent methodology for measuring and documenting both operational and embodied carbon emissions, the proposed standard empowers stakeholders across the construction industry:
- Architects and engineers: Can make informed decisions about material selection and design choices that minimize the building’s environmental impact.
- Policymakers and code officials: Can develop regulations and incentives that promote low-carbon building practices.
- Investors and developers: Can assess the environmental performance of potential projects and make informed investment decisions.
- Building owners and operators: Can track their carbon footprint and identify opportunities for improvement.
What’s in the Standard:
The draft standard, ASHRAE/ICC Standard 240P: Quantification of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Buildings, provides a comprehensive framework for:
- Defining the boundaries of a building’s life cycle and associated emissions.
- Identifying relevant data sources and calculation methods for embodied and operational emissions.
- Formatting and reporting standardized carbon footprint data.
Open for Feedback:
With the goal of creating a robust and practical standard, ASHRAE and ICC are currently seeking public feedback on the draft. By March 18, 2024, stakeholders can submit comments and suggestions through the ASHRAE website.
The Road Ahead:
The finalization and adoption of this standard have the potential to significantly impact the construction industry by bringing transparency and accountability to building carbon footprints. As awareness of embodied carbon grows, this standard could become a vital tool for achieving more sustainable and environmentally responsible construction practices in the future.