Green leaves overlapping under a building

10 Expert Tips to Reduce Your Building’s Carbon Footprint

In recent years, there is a growing demand for organizations to report on climate risk and disclose any future liabilities, including their carbon emissions under the Carbon Disclosure Project. As low carbon policies become common, infrastructure asset managers are likely to find themselves subject to new regulations and standards. Being prepared for these changes will allow for a smoother transition and lessen the impact of carbon pricing. 

So how does one go about reducing their building’s carbon footprint?

Low Carbon Consultants at Alpin can help you lower emissions, save resources and money, create a more attractive property, and future-proof your buildings.

Why is it important to reduce your building carbon footprint?

Construction industry carbon emissions are at an all-time high. According to the Global Status Report 2017, buildings and construction “together account for 36% of global final energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included.” It’s clear that buildings are a major cause of overall CO2 emissions.

Fortunately, today there are ways to reduce a building’s carbon footprint both before and during its creation. This can be achieved through various measures, such as being mindful of the carbon footprint of building materials, using low carbon footprint architecture, and reducing operational carbon emissions, to name a few.

Ultimately, these measures are effective for lowering CO2 emissions. But they can also help to improve a building’s value and revenue. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), buildings can save 5-20% of energy bills with operation and maintenance programs targeting energy efficiency. Green buildings are healthier and they have better operating performance. Plus, they’re more attractive for tenants and command higher sales prices.

Here are the top 10 tips our consultants recommend for lowering your building carbon footprint. These are strategies we often use on our client projects:

Use the right materials

Your choice of material plays a big role in your building’s carbon footprint. You see, not all materials are created equal. Some are much more eco-friendly than others.

How can you tell? By looking at a material’s Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), you’re able to tell how eco-friendly the product’s entire life cycle has been/will be, meaning you are using a material that likely did not harm the planet while being made and will likely not harm it further while being used.

Read more about what and EPD guarantees here.

Use efficient HVAC units

Most of a building’s carbon footprint comes from its heating and cooling air systems. According to the UN Environment, they consume over 50% of a building’s energy and run largely on fossil fuels. In regions like the Middle East, the need for cooling systems is high and so buildings will inevitably require energy to operate. But using eco-friendly HVAC systems can reduce a building’s environmental impact.

What’s more, such systems also reduce a building’s energy bill. For example, we recently did a case study on hospitals in the GCC. With our commissioning services, we identified improper HVAC systems. Thanks to this insight and other measures, we were able to help the clients save 15-20% of overall water and power consumption.

Regularly audit and re-commission your buildings

Auditing and commissioning your projects can result in major environmental benefits as well as energy and financial savings. And the best part is, it is not pricey. The median normalized cost to deliver commissioning is merely 0.4% of the overall construction cost.

Commissioning can also ensure that a project measures up to the required standards, such as global ASHRAE, CIBSE, BSRIA and SMACNA, or mandatory LEED, Estidama and GSAS system requirements.

Find out more about our commissioning services here.

Use low-carbon concrete mixes

Did you know that cement is the cause of 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions? That’s why you need to be mindful of the concrete you use.

Our recommendation is that you use fly ash, slag, calcined clays, or even lower-strength concrete where feasible, to ensure your concrete mixes are low-carbon. This will greatly reduce your building’s carbon footprint.

Reuse and recycle materials

In addition to checking your Products’ EPDs, see if you can pick materials that have been recycled and are recyclable. If you can reuse them, that’s even better.

Brick, metals, broken concrete, or wood are all materials that can be reused and when reusing wood you are guaranteeing that you are leaving a tree in the forest that can further sequester carbon.

Optimize structural efficiency

Using wood framing methods, efficient structural sections and slabs are all perfectly valid ways to optimize structural efficiency. They also help with reducing material use which is great especially if you are already using low-carbon recyclable and recycled products.

When possible, reuse buildings

Demolishing buildings increases CO2 emissions in several ways. First, most embodied carbon resides in a building’s foundations and structure. Plus, constructing new buildings will again require material and resources that grow a building’s CO2 footprint. Today, this is not a very popular option in the United Arab Emirates as everything is new, but it will likely soon become one as the world moves on to greener options.

Preserve the water supply

Water is crucial to our wellbeing but it is also a limited resource. Any new building should have many water preserving innovations such as sensors and tap aerators to ensure that a limited amount of water is wasted.

Preserve energy and use renewable energy where possible

Energy production is one of the highest sources of carbon emissions, so naturally constructing a building so that it preserves energy (heating in the cold and air conditioning in the warm) is a great way to reduce a building’s carbon footprint.

You can also use renewable energy to achieve this goal. Plenty of buildings allow for solar panels to be installed on their rooftops which is a great source of additional carbon-free energy.

Another great way to preserve energy is through energy modeling. Alpin’s Energy Modeling team has helped our clients save over +100,000,000 kWh of energy annually (over $7.25 million/year).

Minimize waste

Finally, with good planning and designing in modules, you can significantly reduce the amount of material you use and waste. If you do have to produce waste try to recycle or reuse it. This takes some planning ahead but can be achieved!

Want to learn more?

If you are looking for a Low Carbon Consultant to reduce your building carbon footprint, simple strategies can lower your building’s CO2 emissions. Ultimately, those measures will increase the value of your property and future-proof your building.

Want to learn more? Reach out to our team of qualified LCC’s or sign up for our valuable insights on creating a sustainable built environment!