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CO2 accounts for buildings

Photo: Adam Mørk
In collaboration with the architects 3xN, COWI has designed a sustainable sculpture from sustainable materials.
The amount of CO2 emitted during the construction of a building is often as large as the total CO2 emissions during the lifetime of the building.  Therefore, it is important to calculate  the carbon footprint from constructing a building.

So far, CO2 accounts for buildings have mainly accounted for the CO2 emissions related to the energy use during the period that a building is in operation.

However, the carbon footprint from constructing a building can be as substantial as from the energy use related to operating the building.

While advanced insulation products such as energy  efficient windows, insulation and thermostats reduce the energy consumption in the buildings, the carbon footprint from the building materials is becoming relatively larger.

A useful CO2 account takes into consideration the carbon footprint from the energy used in the construction phase and the energy it takes to produce the materials used for constructing the building.

Carbon optimized building materials

COWI advises increasingly on the amount of CO2 that is imbedded in materials.

We strongly recommend incorporating carbon optimized materials and building methods in the beginning of the design phase when the client has the opportunity to reflect and make decisions in line with their wishes and ambitions.

It is, for instance, important to look into whether the materials are produced with energy from fossil fuel or renewable energy.

Carbon footprint calculator makes it easy

It is a huge advantage to keep track of the CO2-impact during the early outline phase but also during the design phase as changes can affect the total carbon footprint of the building.

Accordingly, COWI has developed a carbon footprint calculator. The calculator can be linked to a 3d model which makes it easy to observe where the building can be improved with regard to the carbon footprint as well as the construction cost and operation cost.

As function, durability and environmental conditions (such as toxic substances and the impact on the water environment) should be considered, it is important to use the calculator in combination with good consultancy service.

LAST UPDATED: 15.02.2016