Carbon and Buildings
In Toronto, the use of existing buildings and the construction of new ones make up 58% of the city’s carbon emissions.
ReHousing involves creating more housing in our communities by adding new units to existing single-detached homes. This approach helps reduce the environmental impact of city buildings by using energy-efficient systems and eco-friendly materials during renovations without the need for intensive and carbon-heavy demolition.
But first, what is Carbon and how does it affect the environment?
- Carbon is an element that is found in rocks, soil, oceans, living beings and the atmosphere.
- Carbon is constantly cycled from reservoir to reservoir through various processes, including photosynthesis, respiration, decay of organic matter and burning of fossil fuels - commonly in the form of carbon dioxide or CO2
- When the amount of carbon released from reservoirs is equal to the amount naturally absorbed by these reservoirs, the carbon cycle is balanced and allows the plant to remain hospitable for life.
Carbon footprint = Greenhouse Gas emissions
- Gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat within the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases (GHGs). Excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere means an excess of heat being trapped - leading to harmful effects of climate change.
- Since the industrial revolution, human activities like deforestation, mining, and burning of fossil fuels have disrupted the natural carbon cycle balance, leading to more greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere than being taken up by carbon reservoirs such as plants and oceans.
What is a building’s carbon footprint? How and when do buildings release greenhouse gases?
Emissions from buildings are grouped under two main categories: embodied carbon and operational carbon.
Embodied carbonEmbodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions that comes from the extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials. Every time we build a new house, renovate or demolish a building - we contribute to the embodied carbon footprint.
Operational carbonOperational carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions from a building’s energy consumption through powering systems such as heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting. Once we start using buildings, all activities involving electricity, gas, fuel, or water add to our operational carbon footprint.
How can we reduce the carbon footprint of buildings?
Optimize the use of existing buildings
Choose low carbon building materials
Select energy efficient building systems
Eliminate or reduce the use of fossil fuels to power building systems