Designing Low Carbon High Performance Buildings

NORR is committed to supporting the transformation of the built environment from a major source of carbon emissions to an important contributor to combatting the climate emergency. We embrace the climate change mitigation strategy put forth in the Paris Agreement and accept the urgent challenge to make carbon neutral buildings a standard practice, rather than the exception.

Nearly 200 countries have signed commitments to the Paris Agreement. The Agreement aims to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global average temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, while pursuing the means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Signatories promise to achieve net zero emissions beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100. Net zero means that all emissions produced are completely offset by other actions that remove carbon from the atmosphere, such as its absorption through plants and trees or buried through carbon-capture technology.

Net zero legislation in Canada, the US and the UK is a key driver of action to support the Paris Agreement and to achieve the commitments made by each country, key regions where NORR conducts business.

But how can we all make an impact?

Advocacy and Knowledge

NORR has committed to two industry initiatives in the architecture and engineering communities to be part of a global solution that is holistic, practice-wide, project-based and data-driven: 

  • 2030 Commitment
    Architecture 2030 / 2030 Challenge is an initiative that partners with the global architecture and building community to target all new buildings, developments, and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030. NORR signed the AIA 2030 Commitment, the program that provides a framework to standardize reporting for measuring progress and helps to validate our sustainable design approach. It’s a complex process but one that is critical to creating design solutions that are socially aware, environmentally responsible, and financially viable.
  • SE 2050 Challenge
    SE 2050 Challenge is a program launched by the Structural Engineering Institute that targets net zero embodied carbon for structural engineering components in a building by 2050. The structural components of a building accounts for almost 50% of the total building’s embodied carbon, even as the cost of the structure may only be about 20% of the same project. Our team is working collaboratively to transform and implement carbon reduction strategies through our stated actions in the NORR SE 2050 Embodied Carbon Action Plan (ECAP) that includes education and literacy, lifecycle tools and analysis, and measurement and reporting. Our Plan is critical to an achievable path to net zero embodied carbon structures. 

Impact comes through knowledge and NORR is committed to increasing carbon literacy in the industry, with our teams, clients and partners. By promoting and advocating for carbon-literate teams, we are increasing awareness of the carbon dioxide externalized costs in buildings, as well as in everyday activities, providing knowledge and motivation to reduce emissions on an individual, community and organizational basis.

The demand for sustainable design is of critical importance to owners, investors and managers who are responsible for setting performance targets for energy and carbon based on specific project objectives. As a team, we all need to understand and speak the same language, about the full lifecycle of a building to achieve net zero carbon emissions – or a low carbon solution. Through this knowledge series, we take a pragmatic journey and break down the components using a holistic approach. Every component is considered and costed for the short-term and long-term benefits.

How do we design to reduce our carbon footprint?

For existing buildings, we work across the spectrum of sustainable design from feasibility studies and deep energy retrofit investigations to recapitalization and operations and maintenance programs. It’s all part of the success of a low carbon or net zero project.

For ground up buildings, there are a variety of standardized means to achieve a certification or compliance to a rating system. These rating systems vary by measuring different performance elements from energy to sustainability to wellness. That’s why it’s important to consider your options from the outset of a project to ensure the design delivers on the prescribed performance requirements to meet target objectives.

Following a holistic approach helps to inform design decisions. It all starts with a carbon emission analysis to create awareness of the lifecycle carbon of a building, including embodied and operational carbon emissions. The data from this analysis provides multiple options for owners, investors and managers to consider on the journey to carbon neutrality.

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