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CA33 - Getting to the numbers
The embodied carbon benchmarks set by the leading municipalities.
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THE TOPIC - EMBODIED CARBON BENCHMARKS
The world of embodied carbon is new. Sure it’s been part of the conversation for a few years but it really hasn’t reached the mainstream and it especially hasn’t become embedded into our psyche as designers. A few weeks ago I spoke about the importance of everyone becoming carbon literate when it comes to how, when, and what type of energy we use to do things. If you missed it - here’s a link.
To build on that idea, architects and engineers specifically need to be more familiar with embodied carbon benchmarks and standards so we can start targeting reductions. Let’s look at some of the current benchmarks that have been set.
The recent updates to the Toronto Green Building Standard (TGS v4) include caps on upfront embodied emissions based on the study of over 500 small buildings and 41 large buildings. The proposed caps for each building type:
Single Family & Townhouse = 200kg/m2
Multifamily Residential = 500kg/m2
Commercial Office = 400kg/m2
Other Types = 550kg/m2
As of October 1, 2023 the VBBL has implemented their embodied carbon requirements for all part 3 buildings. The first step of which is mandatory reporting through an LCA. They have a target of reducing embodied emissions by 40% by 2030.
They have developed an Embodied Carbon Guidelines for the calculation of your LCA.
The California Green Building Standard, better known as CALGreen is targeting a 40% net reduction in GHG emissions of building materials no later than 2035 with an interim target of 20% reduction by 2030. The changes are coming into effect in July of 2024 and proponents will be able to choose from the following three pathways to meet the requirements:
Reuse at least 45% of an existing structure
Specific embodied carbon limits
Performance-based whole-life carbon analysis
LETI (which has some of THE best carbon graphics) set out targets for embodied carbon for 2020 and 2030 based on the following archetype buildings:
Residential - 2020 [500kg/m2], 2030 [300kg/m2]
Commercial/office - 2020 [600kg/m2], 2030 [350kg/m2]
Schools - 2020 [600kg/m2], 2030 [350kg/m2]
It’s important to note here that LETI’s approach to embodied carbon includes significantly more scope than the other programs mentioned above. LETI is including items like MEP that are typically excluded from LCA calculations at least for these types of compliance.
Builders for Climate Action
The builders for climate action have published some incredible resources about embodied carbon. Some embodied carbon data from over 500 homes in Canada.
Vancouver Homes | Highest = 357kg/m2 | Average = 193kg/m2 | Lowest 138kg/m2
Nelson Homes | Highest = 309kg/m2 | Average = 150kg/m2 | Lowest 72kg/m2
Toronto Homes | Highest = 561kg/m2 | Average = 191kg/m2 | Lowest 116kg/m2
Stacy is one of the most well-known and passionate people when it comes to the carbon and architecture world. She leads the development and scaling of the EC3 tool and is the Executive Director of Building Transparency. She is all-around cool, kind, and a carbon queen!
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