As we reflect on our role as builders in addressing the challenges ahead of us, it’s no secret that the built environment has contributed significantly to climate change.
These impacts from the past represent an opportunity to change the way we build today so that the buildings and cities of the future significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve resilience to the effects of climate change.
Building construction and the production of building materials is responsible for 11% of global GHG emissions. As an industry, we can reduce this number by using building materials with low embodied GHGs and by zoning our cities so that the buildings we construct today remain relevant for centuries, thus maximizing the amortization period of those emissions.
The climate emergency makes the challenge of reducing GHG emissions urgent. The good news is there are accessible and simple ways to reduce emissions throughout the supply chain of building construction. Here are a few examples:
Through the use of CarbonCure technology and supply chain management, Butler Brothers, our local concrete supplier, is pouring concrete that has 50% less GHG emissions than the Canadian average. CarbonCure technology was selected as the most scalable breakthrough technology to convert CO2 emissions into usable products at the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.
With Ductal concrete—an ultra high-performance product by LaFarge—local company Szolyd is decreasing the thickness of their concrete elements as a means to reduce the overall embodied carbon in our structures.
Embodied carbon is only one part of the picture. Over two thirds of a building’s GHG emissions come from the energy used by living, working and playing in a building once construction is complete. This amounts to 28% of global GHG emissions annually.
The following graph shows the relationship between embodied and operational GHG emissions by comparing concrete with Mass Timber (CLT) construction. From there, it compares how the performance of those materials can be further improved with the implementation of energy efficient design standards; on the far left you’ll see how a code minimum design stacks up against Passive House (PH) energy efficiency standards, all the way to Passive House Plus (PH Plus).*
Here in BC, the Energy Step Code is an innovative regulatory policy that has put the construction industry on a pathway to reduce a building’s GHG emissions over its lifespan.
By 2032 all new buildings in BC must be Net Zero Ready.
Net Zero Ready buildings are similar to those built to the Passive House Standard referenced in the graph below. Each Net Zero Ready building will be so energy efficient that it can offset the energy it uses by generating renewable energy onsite from sources such as wind and solar energy.
At Aryze, our goal is to construct the best homes we can, including homes that do their part to meet the challenges of climate change now and in the future. Why build to a lower standard and lock in high GHG emissions for the entire lifespan of new buildings when better energy efficiency standards and reduced embodied carbon are achievable today? Aryze has decided not to wait until 2032:
Our next round of developments are targeting the high performance building levels of the Step Code and the Passive House Standard.
Energy efficiency and climate change mitigation are only part of the story of high-performance buildings. Achieving these standards also improves the health and comfort of those living and working in the buildings and makes the buildings more durable. One reason is that outdoor air—and accumulated pollution—is filtered and distributed to living areas throughout the building rather than leaking through random cracks in the walls, roof and floor. This is especially important here in BC where we face increasing smoke from forest fires. High quality windows and thick layers of insulation needed to meet high energy efficiency standards create more comfortable and quieter indoor space. Lastly, by controlling air flow and adding insulation the building is better protected from the wind, rain, and condensation that can shorten a building’s life.
We are just at the beginning of this decarbonization challenge and each new project provides an opportunity to improve the climate performance of our designs and construction practices. We are excited to learn more, test innovative products and partner with others in our industry to help embrace the full potential of the Net Zero building economy.
Aryze is an integrated home building, development and urban planning team focused on innovation across a full spectrum of housing types.
Browse through some of the thoughtful living environments we created over the past few years.