Feds fund project to integrate carbon metrics in building material databases

Source: Colorado State University, Ft. Collins

Colorado State University researchers will use a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop measurement and assessment tools providing real-time, “on-the-fly” carbon footprint metrics when integrated with building material databases and architectural design software.

“When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a key element to changing behavior of building professionals and consumers is better environmental impact measurement systems,” says Carbon Footprint Metric (CFM) Project Director Keith Paustian, a member of the CSU Department of Soil and Crop Sciences faculty. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a system that measures emissions for the entire building lifecycle, from design to decommissioning. The system will need to be readily accessible to architects and builders, easy to understand and use, and conforming to existing environmental management systems.”

In the built environment, he adds, emission sources include all the steps in producing and transporting building materials; building construction; building operation and maintenance, such as HVAC systems and landscaping; plus activities involved in building turnover, disposal and recycling. The CSU research will consist of comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments from design through construction of three progressively more complex buildings: a cutting-edge modular residential building designed by Living Homes in Los Angeles; a CSU classroom and laboratory building in Fort Collins designed by Neenan Co.; and an industrial building, the New Belgium brewery, in Asheville, N.C. “From this research, we will create a CFM system prototype,” Paustian notes. “Once validated for each class of building, the system will permit design and construction practitioners to evaluate and alter building designs in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the building.”