Embodied Carbon

Embodied Carbon is often an overlooked environmental impact of construction.

In the quest for sustainable and eco-friendly living, the focus has often been on reducing energy consumption and increasing the use of renewable resources. However, there’s another critical aspect that deserves our attention—embodied carbon. This term refers to the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of building materials. Concrete, steel, and insulation are all examples of materials that contribute to embodied carbon emissions. 

“Embodied carbon, the silent architect of a building’s environmental legacy, compels us to rethink construction practices and choose materials that pave the way for a greener, more sustainable tomorrow”.

What is Embodied Carbon?

Embodied carbon, also known as embedded or upfront carbon, encompasses the emissions released throughout a material’s life cycle—from raw material extraction and processing to manufacturing, transportation, and eventual disposal. It provides a holistic view of a product’s environmental impact, considering not only its operational carbon (emissions during use) but also the emissions associated with its creation.

The Significance of Embodied Carbon in Construction:

Hidden Impact

While the operational carbon of buildings (energy used for heating, cooling, lighting, etc.) is well-understood, the embodied carbon often goes unnoticed. It accounts for a significant portion of a structure’s overall carbon footprint and can’t be ignored in the pursuit of sustainable construction.

Long Term Implications

Buildings are long-term investments, and the materials used in their construction have a lasting impact. By addressing embodied carbon, we can make more informed choices about materials, considering their environmental impact over the entire life cycle.

2023 BC Embodied Carbon
Award Winning Project

Global Contribution

The construction industry is a major contributor to global carbon emissions. Recognizing the embodied carbon in building materials is crucial for achieving international climate goals and mitigating climate change.

BC Embodied Carbon Award

One of our recent projects over on the Sunshine Coast won the inaugural BC Embodied Carbon Award 2023 making it the first-ever recognition of its kind in North America.  The award recognizes companies and projects that go above and beyond to make the housing industry more sustainable. 

Ways to Minimize Embodied Carbon:

Material Selection

Opt for materials with lower embodied carbon. This involves choosing products made from recycled or reclaimed materials and those produced with energy-efficient processes.

“Addressing the hidden impact of embodied carbon is crucial for creating resilient structures with minimized environmental footprint.”

Local Sourcing

Minimize transportation-related emissions by sourcing materials locally. This not only reduces the carbon footprint but also supports local economies.

Efficient Construction Practices

Innovations in construction methods can significantly reduce embodied carbon. Techniques like modular construction, which involves assembling pre-manufactured components on-site, can be more resource-efficient.

Design for Deconstruction

Plan buildings with future deconstruction in mind. This allows for the reuse of materials, extending their life cycle and reducing the need for new production.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Conducting a life cycle assessment of building materials helps evaluate their environmental impact comprehensively. This analysis aids in making informed decisions about materials and construction methods.

In Conclusion

Embodied carbon is a critical consideration in the pursuit of sustainable construction practices. By understanding and addressing the hidden impact of building materials, we can move towards creating structures that not only minimize their operational carbon but also contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future. Through conscious material choices, innovative construction practices, and a commitment to reducing overall environmental impact, the construction industry can play a significant role in mitigating climate change and building a greener world.

At GNAR Inc we are passionate about creating sustainable homes, let us know how we can help you bring your dream house to life.  Call us at 604.962.1611 or email info@gnarinc.com for more information.