Creston Housing Hub

Carbon and Building

What does Carbon mean?

 “Carbon” is often used to describe greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO₂). This generalized use of “carbon” comes from the fact that many of the most impactful greenhouse gases contain carbon in their molecular structure, like CO₂, methane (CH₄), and carbon monoxide (CO).

However, this term also encompasses other non-carbon-based greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide (N₂O) and fluorinated gases, due to their contribution to the greenhouse effect (warming of the atmosphere). The use of “carbon” as a blanket term helps simplify discussions about climate change reducing greenhouse gases, despite the diversity of these gases. It’s often used in contexts like carbon footprint, carbon credits, and carbon neutral, which relate to the overall impact on and efforts to balance or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Embodied carbon refers to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced when making, transporting, and getting rid of building materials. It’s important to think about in the construction industry because buildings account for about 38% of global carbon emissions.

Embodied carbon can be calculated for each building material, taking into account the energy used in extraction, processing, transportation, and disposal. For example, materials such as concrete, steel, and aluminum have a higher embodied carbon due to their energy-intensive production processes. On the other hand, materials such as timber, bamboo, and straw have lower embodied carbon as they are made from renewable resources and have a more environmentally friendly production process.

Low-carbon building materials often have additional benefits such as improved indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

To reduce embodied carbon, it is important to consider the entire lifecycle of building materials, from production to disposal. This means choosing materials that are made from renewable resources, produced using low-carbon methods, and have a low transportation carbon footprint.

It is also important to consider the end-of-life of building materials and ensure that they are recyclable or biodegradable. This will reduce the amount of waste generated during the construction process and promote a circular economy where materials are reused and recycled, reducing the demand for new resources and reducing the carbon footprint of the construction industry.

Some of the most popular sustainable building materials include:

Bamboo: Bamboo is a fast-growing and renewable resource that can be used for flooring, roofing, and wall paneling. It is a highly durable material and has a lower carbon footprint compared to traditional materials like concrete and steel.

Recycled Steel: Steel is one of the most widely used construction materials and using recycled steel in construction reduces the need for new materials, saving energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cross-Laminated Timber : Cross-laminated timber is a type of engineered wood that is made from small pieces of wood glued together. It is strong, durable, and can be used instead of traditional materials like concrete and steel.

Recycled Plastic: Recycled plastic can be used in the construction of various items such as decking, fencing, and floor tiles. It is a durable material that requires less energy to produce compared to traditional materials and is resistant to moisture, insects, and rot.

Earth-Based Materials: Materials like rammed earth, adobe, and cob can be used for building walls and foundations. These materials are made from locally sourced and readily available natural resources, reducing the carbon footprint of construction.