Low Carbon Building Materials

Do you work in the building sector, or are you getting ready to build your own home? Are you interested in finding ways to reduce the emissions associated with constructing new homes or buildings?

In late 2020, the City of Nelson identified the need to enhance its approach to reducing the impact of our buildings by taking embodied carbon (otherwise referred to as material carbon emissions or embodied emissions) into consideration alongside operational carbon. While operational carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions emitted through building energy use such as heating, cooling, and lighting, embodied carbon refers to the emissions produced through the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials.

With support from FortisBC and the City of Castlegar, the City of Nelson created the Low Carbon Homes Pilot in early 2021 to complement our energy efficiency programming and begin to find ways to reduce embodied carbon within our building sector. Check out this four-page brief if you want to learn more about the concept of embodied carbon and the goals of the Low Carbon Homes Pilot. 

To learn more about how you can take action on climate change through choosing lower carbon building materials, check out the following resources: 

Material Carbon Emissions Guide This document is designed to help municipal staff, builders, and others better understand the material carbon emissions associated with different building materials. It highlights the largest emitting material categories in Nelson and Castlegar and offers generalizable product rankings to give folks a sense of the emissions intensity associated with different building materials. The guide seeks to support the overall goal of improving the reliability, transparency, and ubiquity of high-quality material carbon emissions data and highlight the need for continued research on the topic.

Benchmarking Report This document summarizes the work conducted in the Low Carbon Homes Pilot. It includes an overview of the methodology, a discussion of the findings, and a list of actions that building designers, energy advisors, builders/contractors, and municipal staff and regulators can take to reduce embodied carbon emissions. 

ZEBx Decarb Lunch Series Reducing Embodied Carbon for Step Code Homes. This presentation summarized the Low Carbon Homes Pilot findings and how these relate to embodied carbon research projects underway in other parts of the country. It highlights that it is possible and necessary to reduce operational and embodied carbon emissions in new low-rise residential construction. The audio and slides from the presentation are available on the ZEBx website. 

Building Better: Moving Beyond Energy Efficiency This presentation introduces the topic of embodied carbon, highlights its importance to emission reduction efforts in the building sector, and discusses the findings of the Low Carbon Homes Pilot. A key takeaway is that efforts to improve energy efficiency can lead to higher carbon emissions when the embodied carbon of building materials is not considered.  

Presentation LCHP Screenshot (wide)2 Opens in new window

Still curious to learn more? Reach out to the City's Climate Resilience Planner, Natalie Douglas, at ndouglas@nelson.ca to learn more about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within our building sector.