One of the essential environmental threats to our planet Earth is climate change. Life on earth is not possible without the Greenhouse effect; however, an increase in Greenhouse gasses affects climate, thereby rising temperatures. Higher temperatures, rise in sea levels, droughts, and floods will affect the existence and loss of plants, animals and other species, the people living, and their quality of life, including the built environment. While some greenhouse gasses occur naturally, some other gasses are created and emitted by human activities. Carbon dioxide – one of the main GHCs enters the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, solid waste, trees, wood products, and other chemical reactions.

What is Carbon-neutral Architecture

Kilroy et al. (2006) define carbon-neutral architecture as a movement focussing on creating buildings that reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide emissions throughout a building’s life cycle. The building industry and its construction-related activities are a substantial contributor to emissions of carbon dioxide throughout its lifespan. Emissions are produced by the building with its interaction with the environment, before construction – when raw materials fabricate into building materials, during their construction – excavation and transportation of materials, emissions from water and waste, after construction – operations including mechanical equipment.

What is Carbon-neutral architecture? - Sheet1
Carbon-neutral building_©whitearkitekter

Ways to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Various researches have been done to reduce these carbon emissions, and till today, many solutions have been found. Some of them are-

Global Action Plan and regulations developed by countries.

  1. Governments setting planned goals
  2.  Implementing energy conservation methods and techniques
  3.  Issue of energy performance certificates
  4. Checking of operational ratings in buildings
  5. Use of low carbon technologies
  6. Regular inspections for equipment used
  7. Architectural design strategies
  8. To build as per energy codes

Carbon-neutral Architecture Design Strategies

To reduce GHC or carbon emissions, and have an impact on climate change, it is necessary to reduce emissions from the building sector. The architectural design process involves various steps and tools generating and evaluating multiple solutions to produce a refined object that satisfies energy efficiency techniques. Here are a few strategies to offset emissions –

  1. Climate and Architecture
  2. Implementing sustainable practices
  3. Increase energy efficiency
  4. Generating on-site renewable power
  5. Building Simulations
What is Carbon-neutral architecture? - Sheet2
Climate-neutral building_©igsmag.com

Climate and Architecture 

Differences in climate caused by the differences of solar input affect the Earth’s temperature; on that account, it is essential to design buildings as per the various climate zones, characteristic of geographical location. Buildings have to be able to regulate the outdoor conditions of temperature, weather, snow, and rainfall.

Climate Responsive Design 

Designing a building according to the climate zone is one of the essential elements in Carbon-Neutral Architecture. Passive cooling is necessary for hot, humid climate zones and passive heating for cold climates. However, both cooling and heating are required in temperate climate zones. Taking care of solar radiation, providing ample natural ventilation, shading devices, using light color surfaces, installing insulation to minimize heat gain, environmentally responsive facades are some of the strategies for a flexible configuration.

Thermal Comfort

Thermal comfort is a principal factor for building occupants. As per ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers), there are six variables to say about a person’s comfort – surface temperature, air temperature, air velocity, activity level, clothing level, humidity. One of the design schemes can be by achieving thermal comfort in the buildings without the use of mechanical systems by using definitive design principles and strategies.

To design Building Envelopes with high Performance 

Building envelopes are in direct contact with the environment and therefore play a primary role in heat gain and heat loss during all major seasons. It has a significant effect on the performance of the building. Carbon neutral architecture involves the control of the flow of energy between indoors and outdoors to improve the performance and energy efficiency of a building.

High performance facade_©IC- Vancouver(twitter.com)

1. Implementing Sustainable practices 

Recycling construction and demolition waste, reusing building materials, reuse existing buildings and preserving historic buildings, preserving native soils, plants, and trees in existing neighborhoods are essential for minimizing emission. Implementing stormwater practices, protecting water quality, proper irrigation methods for landscape design, installing high-efficiency systems and appliances, and reducing waste disposal is required to reduce the use of water and energy. Providing insulation for exterior walls and roofs and installing high-performance openings provide comfort and decrease cost. These are some of the measures used for a building to design as per guidelines for carbon-neutral architecture.

2. Generating on-site Renewable practices 

It is the energy generated on-site by using renewable resources like sun and wind which are naturally replenished. Installation of a photovoltaic system to generate electricity, solar thermal systems for heating, capturing wind energy to generate power helps to offset the energy used is an essential characteristic of carbon-neutral architecture.

3. Building Simulations

The architectural design process requires building simulations to achieve the requisites/ targets for high-performance buildings. Architects have to utilize these building energy simulations to analyze the properties of structures such as form, orientation, size, etc., depending on the environmental factors.

Carbon-neutral building focuses on buildings that reduce carbon emission throughout their life cycle. Low carbon buildings are considered high-performance buildings. A high-performance building optimizes primary attributes, which include energy conservation, sustainable design practices, functional aspects, cost-effectiveness, safety, security, productivity, and operations that are high-performing variables.

References:

  1. Roche, P. L. M. (2017). Carbon-Neutral Architectural Design (2nd ed.). CRC Press.
  2. “Carbon Neutral Buildings – Creating Value Through Architecture – White Arkitekter”. White Arkitekter, 2022, 
  3. “The Carbon Neutral Design Project | Society Of Building Science Educators | American Institute Of Architects – What Is Carbon Neutral Design?”. Tboake.Com, 2022, https://www.tboake.com/carbon-aia/carbon_definition.html#intro.
  4. “What Is The Carbon Footprint Of A Building? | Thought Leadership | HMC Architects”. HMC Architects, 2022, https://hmcarchitects.com/news/what-is-the-carbon-footprint-of-a-building-2019-01-24/.
Author

Sahithi is an Indian-based Architect and Interior designer. While Architecture is her profession, writing is her passion and makes her feel compelling. She believes writing about Architecture can bring a positive change and develop a sensitivity towards culture and Heritage.Despite these,she loves traveling.

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