Decarbonization refers to the reduction and extraction of greenhouse gas emissions out of the operation of buildings and their supply chains. Beyond energy efficiency, decarbonization looks at the carbon intensity of fuel sources, ongoing commissioning, renewables and extraction, manufacturing and transportation emissions associated with the creation of materials.

Carbon Neutral Building Design Process 

This 5 step methodology engages the entire team throughout the design process to cost-effectively reduce emissions, enhance resilience, improve comfort, reduce noise and manage long-term operational savings.

STEP 1  Determine the Project’s Baseline Load and Design Parameters
Defining the building area, functions and applicable codes works to establish legal performance levels, project cost, allowable utility cost and GHG emissions. This collaborative effort involves the client, architect, engineer and consultants.

STEP 2 – Reduce Load Through Passive Design
Leverage passive design based on location and climate to lower energy use. These strategies, such as daylighting and natural ventilation influence architectural choices. Involving all the stakeholders is essential, as architecture significantly affects building performance and embodied carbon, and it will have the longest lasting impact.

STEP 3 – Reduce Load Through Active Systems
Efficient HVAC&R systems can be added to reduce the building load beyond the baseline. This phase is primarily led by the mechanical engineer but impacts other disciplines, underscoring the value of an integrated design approach.

STEP 4 – Reduce Load Through Renewables
When finalizing project designs or retrofits, prioritize maximizing onsite renewables like solar and wind for resilience, cost parity, and achieving or surpassing net zero status. Shift from a reliance on fossil fuels to an all-electric building. Additionally, it’s important to factor in the cost difference between utility energy and the more stable cost of renewable energy in business models.

STEP 5 – Purchase Carbon Offsets to Achieve Net Zero
Consider carbon offsets only if design adjustments are not able to meet project goals for net zero or net positive energy or emissions. This helps control costs and reduces long-term operational expenses.

By focusing on carbon reduction, the built environment is leveraging the greening of individual buildings to yield positive global results.