Tuesday, December 02, 2008

GreenBuild 08, Boston MA: Highlights – part 4

By Sonja Persram, BSc., MBA, LEED® AP
Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc.


Measuring embodied carbon impacts in commercial and industrial buildings was the topic of
dcarbon8’s Andrew Marris’ and Tony Siantonas’ presentation. CEO Marris noted the ratio of embodied to operational carbon is 20:80, however given the scenario where buildings are low energy the ratio becomes 40:60 based on benchmark data from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)’s carbon buzz website. Their UK carbon consultancy firm developed their Planet Positive mark which requires measuring carbon footprint of direct (operational) and indirect (embodied) activities, and of products based on life cycle analysis, committing to reduce this footprint significantly, and offsetting the balance by a minimum of 110%. Siantonas stated that 1 tonne CO2 equivalent is:
· about 2 months of an average home’s emissions from energy (gas and electricity)
· $3.50 on
CCX, $10 on VER (Voluntary or Verified Emission Reduction), $20 on regular markets, and $40 shadow cost of carbon

Some findings:
· Analysis of embodied carbon by lifecycle in one study resulted in 85% coming from manufacturing processes, 7% from delivery to site and 8% due to fuel combustion. Their conclusion in this case, which may be applicable to others: focus on where materials are from and how they are manufactured, not necessarily the delivery to site.
· In analysing carbon by building component, they found the building envelope contributed 42%.
· In steel production
[1] over 90% of GHGs were from direct emissions i.e. blast furnace energy. Less than 10% of emissions came from: feedstock GHGs (mining ore, limestone), infrastructure (tools e.g. making the blast furnace), and a small amount came from what they call ‘infrastructure squared’ or the tools for tools. Siantonas noted the latter component was hard to control, and the size of the contribution meant including such data wouldn’t add much to the analysis.

Client projects include:
· A carbon footprint analysis for Lend Lease Retail project
Somerset Central in Singapore.
· The Masdar city carbon footprint analysis: the headquarters building is energy positive, and is 103,000 m2. The building envelope was targeted for major reduction approaches.
Prologis - the largest global owner, manager and developer of distribution facilities with $40.8 billion real estate assets under management representing 548 million sf in 22 countries.

Prologis Manager of Sustainability Drew Torbin described his corporation’s rationale for carbon measurement: he “thinks of carbon as waste,” and found that value was from an embodied carbon study via the following:
· Low carbon = high efficiency. ‘Less’ is used: less energy, resources…
· Strengthening of customer relationships
· Attraction for customers and investors: ‘A’ quality assets attract ‘A’ quality customers


In discussing how to achieve sustainability and happiness, the speakers called for changing the system, not the mindset. Jim Hartzfeld, Managing Director of
InterfaceRAISE noted that personal sustainability practices were key: ‘green your routine,’ since ‘order begets order’… use a ‘practice placement’ (a re-working of ‘product placement’) since ‘every little green practice breaks down inertia and at some point they all add up to break the status quo.’ He said we could get caught up in catastrophes, when maybe what we need to do is consider ‘how could you live your best life every day.’ He uses this tactic to achieve enormous change: ‘get peoples’ stories of what they have been the absolute proudest of being associated with. Two-thirds of these memories are memorable examples of what they thought was impossible.’ Analyse – ‘what made that happen? Big goals? Not taking ‘no’ for an answer? Unbelievable planning and execution? Then they think it’s not quite as impossible (as before). He goes on to suggest that we ‘focus on what LEED buildings can do, and the power of buildings to affect the mindset of occupants.’

Dayna Baumeister of the
Biomimicry Guild foresaw that society in future would be free of white noise, and we would be wondering at times not at what we did, but what we put up with in that regard. An interesting viewpoint, especially given we often have to go ‘out into nature’ to achieve needed peace from urban noise, and noise can be considered as wasted energy.


The closing plenary presentations are available
online. Some key messages:

E.O. Wilson stated ‘four-fifths of animals on the planet are nematode worms,’ of which most species are unknown. There are ‘5,000-6,000 species of bacteria in a handful of soil – all unknown to science.’ There is great tragedy in that ‘human action is destroying countless species before even knowing what they are.’ Later in their collaborative ‘armchair’ discussion, Wilson noted the need for addressing worldwide water shortages, such as via dry land agriculture, and that we use too narrow a band of species given that ‘50,000 species of plants could be adapted to crops.’

Janine Benyus described her childhood adventures in the ‘micro-wilderness outside (her) house;’ how as a ‘dinner-bell kid’ in the morning she would ‘squirm out of my mother’s embrace to go outside,’ investigate all day in the field by her house, and her mother ‘would have to ring and ring the dinner bell to get me to dinner.’ Later, she watched from the bushes as her childhood idyll was ‘scalped’ with the incursion of bulldozers in phase II of a new subdivision, and noted: ‘if they knew differently (about the natural world there) they would treat that settled land differently’…. We ‘all have to get to know our places very well.’

Through the massive knowledge gaps they spoke of and damage incurred given those gaps, I nevertheless found the presentations rather relieving and engendering of hope, because of the announcement of two websites. They are:
· The
Encyclopedia of Life (launched by a global consortium of key museums and research organizations) with a goal of having one webpage on each of the estimated 1.8 million species on earth. Wilson observed that this arose out of a perceived to link ‘science and the enlightened future-oriented business that you are involved in.’
www.asknature.org aims to share biomimetic design knowledge for applications globally.
Both projects are free and open source.

This post is instalment #4 of 5. Stay tuned!

[1] Based on data he cited from the International Federation of Institutes for Advanced Study (IFIAS), 1974

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