According to numerous studies, the construction industry generates over 39 percent of global energy related emissions… over one-third of the world’s greenhouse gases! But the carbon emissions measured don’t include the overall ecological cost that remodeling and new commercial and residential construction have on the planet. Because the combined activities do more than simply use energy, construction impacts the environmental landscape itself.
But current green building certifications are costly and, many experts argue, completely unrealistic in their design. That’s why 8 Billion Trees created the Climate Plus Program. It delivers real results for offsetting the ecological footprint produced by new buildings and remodeling projects, because it’s more than a climate or carbon mitigation plan. Its pays the ecological debt a new building costs the planet by performing habitat and community restoration.
How Does Climate Plus Erase Construction Ecological Footprint and Create a Green Building Project?
In any new construction project, or even a remodeling one, there’s both a carbon footprint, and an ecological footprint. The energy used is one factor, but the resources consumed also play a large role in the environmental cost of the project.
Construction’s Carbon Footprint—Operational and Embodied Carbon
Each new construction project generates both operation and embodied carbon emissions. Operational carbon refers to the energy consumed to keep the building operating, including climate controls, electricity, and other energy related needs. These costs to the planet can be reduced through green energy options and through basic conservation, but the fact remains that every new building will create carbon emissions where there weren’t any before.
Embodied carbon refers to the building’s lifespan, including emissions that begin when the site is prepared and materials are removed (transported), and continue through the construction phase and afterward (like refurbishments) and finally adding any demolition and disposal.
Construction Ecological Footprint—Why Green Building Materials Aren’t Used for Sustainable Construction
In addition to the carbon emissions, there’s an ecological footprint for all construction projects. The natural resources and materials harvested for use contribute to the ecological cost, which is a measurement of how much humans consume that can’t be replaced or regenerated by the planet.
The Earth has a limited, renewable ‘supply’ of resources, or “biocapacity,” and consuming those resources has a price. But, because many green building materials cost more than their counterparts, their use is not widespread.
Since all of these factors can only be slightly altered through current green building and eco-friendly construction practices, something more is needed to eliminate these emissions from the environment. Enter Climate Plus construction Offsets.
What’s Wrong With Current Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Building Certifications?
The building certification process developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) called LEED is designed to increase awareness concerning ecological impact among contractors and architects and to encourage the use of green technologies and sustainable materials in new and refurbishment projects.
That’s great! But, there a huge problem. These plans were not developed by the actual builders and designers who do the work, nor was it organized around actual metrics involving ecological health. So, the certification is impractical for almost every project due to the complexity and measurement standards that ignore key factors.
For example, one LEED Platinum building in a suburb generated a huge carbon footprint (lots of concrete and steel and glass were used) and it’s not transit oriented, so residents must drive to get there. Yet, it’ still recognized by the USGBC as exemplary. This is essentially greenwashing because the project is highly detrimental to the environment.
Although USGBC is streamlining efforts to certify green construction, there’s no time to waste. Real action is needed now by people who are in the industry and have the power to make initiate real change.
Sustainable Construction with Green Building Certifications: How Construction Carbon Offset Program Work
In order to help renew the planet’s biocapacity and eliminate the carbon cost of construction, offsets offer real solutions.
1. Action Can Be Taken Now
With a carbon offset program, the energy ‘footprint’ of the construction job, the materials and their processing and transport, and even the eventual maintenance of the structure can be eliminated! This is an environmental solution that can be applied before, during, or after the project is completed.
2. Builders, Homeowners, Architects… Anyone Can Do It
Another benefit of carbon offsets is that they can be employed by anyone involved in the project, from the architect to the homeowner. The offsets count toward the building itself, regardless who orders them.
3. Tree Planting Delivers Actionable Results
Forestry projects used to create carbon offsets deliver effective solutions because the trees keep on sequestering carbon emissions their entire lives.
Although the emissions and ecological footprint of construction projects seems overwhelming, there are long-term and immediate solutions for the planet. Using carbon offsets to eliminate the greenhouse gases generated by any new or remodeling project, makes it a “green building project” that is working to restore the environment.