Carbon-Neutral Architecture: Combating Climate Change

Insights into Carbon-Neutral Architecture, and Why It’s Essential to Combating Climate Change

By Rose Morrison, managing editor of Renovated

The construction industry accounts for 38% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide pollutes the air and can lead to climate change. Climate change causes increased temperatures and more severe storms.

However, eco-friendly building practices are growing in popularity. Net-zero-carbon buildings are the goal of sustainable architecture. Here is everything you should know about this topic.

See our resource hub: Sustainable Construction: A Comprehensive Guide

What Is Carbon-Neutral Architecture?

Carbon-neutral architecture is where climate-friendly initiatives are used to balance out carbon dioxide emissions. Over time, the net carbon footprint should be zero. The goal is to limit greenhouse gas releases during design, construction, and operation.

The manufacturing of materials should also be carbon-neutral. Contractors can even reduce the carbon footprint of the residents. For example, they could install sustainable features, like tankless water heaters. In addition, many green homes focus on reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. These fuels are often used to heat and power homes.

How Buildings Can Help Fight Climate Change

Carbon-neutral architecture reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Through sustainable designs and burning fewer fossil fuels, the industry can fight climate change.

The construction industry is constantly growing. So, creating net-zero buildings is an excellent next step.

Carbon-Neutral Architecture: Metropol Parasol, Plaza de la Encarnación, Seville, Spain
Wood is ideal for Carbon-Neutral Architecture.
Metropol Parasol, Plaza de la Encarnación, Seville, Spain
Photo by Tom Podmore on Unsplash

How to Create Net-Zero-Carbon Structures

Carbon-neutral buildings are essential to protecting the environment but are challenging to create. Here are a few ideas for a more sustainable property.

1. Use Sustainable Materials

First, consider the materials used in the construction process. Some supplies, like steel and concrete, can significantly impact global warming. About 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from steel production. So, you want to limit steel and concrete within the overall design. Other carbon-intensive materials include foam insulation and aluminum.

So, try to find sustainable alternatives, such as wood. During a remodeling project, you can replace vinyl siding with wood. When searching for sustainable alternatives, make sure to do your research and find if the company addresses one’s carbon footprint or provides information on what certifications they have that would qualify them as “sustainable.”

Also, create more efficient management systems through software programs like Buildertrend. Rework and waste can often be avoided, and doing so helps companies become greener.

These can help optimize processes and limit ordering mistakes. They can help contractors determine how much material they need, so none is wasted. Another way to reduce waste is reusing materials. During demolition, consider saving certain things, such as cabinets or light fixtures. Also, look for recycled or salvaged materials when shopping.

2. Use Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy is essential to limit our reliance on fossil fuels. They also conserve resources for the next generation. Solar panels are one of the more common options. You can add these to roofs or even create solar communities. Solar communities are a collection of panels installed for the neighborhood to use. The panels cut electricity bills while eliminating carbon output from the energy-generation process.

There are other options as well, such as wind or geothermal. Geothermal heat pumps use the warmth from the ground to heat homes. First, talk with local utility services to see what renewable options are available.

Keep in mind these renewable upgrades may be costly upfront. For example, solar panel installation can cost between $5,000 and $40,000, depending on its size. However, tax incentives can help make them more affordable. You can claim the federal residential solar energy credit on your income taxes.

3. Reduce the Amount of Finishing Materials

Adding lots of fancy finishes, like granite countertops, can increase the production of waste and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. Try using structural materials for your final touches.

For example, polished concrete slabs are a good flooring alternative to carpet. If you want a more industrial look, consider leaving your ceiling unfinished. This reduces the number of manufacturing processes and limits waste. Another idea is using recycled finishes, such as glass tiles, or other green materials, like bamboo or natural stone.

Sustainable finishes provide your home with character. Of course, high-end finishes also raise your whole budget. For example, ​​granite can cost around $40 to $100 per square foot.

4. Upgrade Older Buildings

New construction can create high-end homes. However, revamping houses instead of building new ones can reduce carbon emissions. The construction of a new house can generate 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).

To lower this number, contractors can improve existing buildings. They can save the foundation and structure to reduce the manufacturing of materials. Other upgrades can be to interior features, such as lighting. Upgrading to LED lightbulbs increases energy efficiency.

Here are some more ways to improve homes’ carbon footprints:

  • Seal windows and doors
  • Upgrade to Energy Star-rated appliances
  • Insulate the attic
  • Install a smart thermostat

5. Add Smart Technology

Smart devices help improve the efficiency of your devices. For example, smart thermostats automatically adjust to your ideal temperature, conserving energy. It even lowers when you’re not home and kicks back up when you return. Smart devices allow homeowners to monitor and control their energy usage.

They can analyze the data gathered to develop effective strategies that reduce waste. Smart technology can also reduce energy variations and prevent supply disruptions. Smart electronics not only help the environment but also increase property value.

Here are some smart devices to add to your home:

  • Thermostats
  • Bulbs and lighting systems
  • Surge protectors/power strips
  • Refrigerators
  • Washers and dryers

6. Create Low-Carbon Concrete Mixes

Concrete can be a source of carbon emissions. Each pound of concrete releases 0.93 pounds of carbon dioxide. Another issue is that it’s a heavy material that’s used frequently. If you can’t avoid using it, find a low-carbon solution.

Use concrete mixes with fly ash, slag, and calcined clays. Your access to these supplies may vary depending on your location.

When producing concrete, builders can reduce their carbon footprint through other techniques. For example, they could use renewable energy to power their machines. Another strategy worth watching is to add captured carbon to fresh concrete – a process known as carbon sequestration.

7. Increase the Structural Integrity of Buildings

Creating the structure can lead to significant carbon dioxide emissions and energy loss if certain measures aren’t taken. One example is ensuring the building’s envelope is created to be efficient and airtight right from the first wall-framing steps.

A building’s envelope has a substantial impact on its efficiency over the long run, as well as its ability to retain conditioned or purified air. Paying attention to how well the structure is sealed at every step of the way goes a long way toward ensuring carbon neutrality over its lifetime.

How Carbon-Neutral Architecture Can Help the Planet

Tons of greenhouse gases are emitted each day. A lot of this comes from the construction of new homes and buildings, which means creating carbon-neutral architecture slows down climate change. When building, use sustainable materials, renewable energy sources, and intelligent structural designs.

Rose Morrison

About the Author

Rose is the managing editor of Renovated and has been writing in the construction industry for over five years. She’s most passionate about sustainable building and incorporating similar resourceful methods into our world. For more from Rose, you can follow her on Twitter.