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April 30 - Quantifying Embodied Carbon for Buildings of the Future

Society is facing a climate crisis. Over 30 municipalities in British Columbia have declared a climate emergency so far and some have begun taking significant steps to address the climate crisis. The most effective way to address this climate crisis is to focus on greenhouse gas emissions. But which type? In the buildings sector, embodied emissions are the now. Operational emissions are the maybe later. With this in mind, some municipalities are beginning to buckle down on embodied emissions.

Leading this charge is the City of Vancouver, with plans to set increasingly stringent embodied emissions targets, starting next year, so that by 2030, the embodied emissions from new buildings will be reduced by 40% compared to buildings built in 2018. What this means for you is simple: quantifying embodied emissions in new buildings will become the norm in very short order. Join ZEBx & CLF Vancouver for the next Decarb Lunch; We’ll be focusing on some of the different lifecycle assessment tools available today, and embodied emissions results for high-performance Part 9 and Part 3 buildings of the future.

Diana Lopez will talk about the UBC Sustainability Initiative research group which is currently conducting the Embodied Carbon Pilot, a multi-year research study on the practices and processes of assessing embodied carbon emissions from building materials through LCA. The goal of this work is to identify factors that contribute to the variability of assessment results, and develop guidelines for standardization. The group have conducted multiple pilot LCAs on different building projects in BC to gain an in-depth understanding of the LCA process and the implications that decisions and assumptions made by LCA practitioners have on the results. This presentation will focus on the assessments conducted for the UBCO Skeena Residence project, a student housing building located at the UBC Okanagan Campus in Kelowna, BC targeting Passive House certification. The six-storey hybrid structure features a concrete ground floor and wood-frame structure from second to sixth floor. As part of the Embodied Carbon Pilot, the group have also drafted a methodology where they establish the importance of setting these parameters early in the process and aligning them with the LCA goal and purpose, as well as offering guidance on how to conduct an LCA based on a building’s bill of materials. A brief outline of the methodology and lessons learned from the Pilot will be included in the presentation as well.

Oriana Vanderfleet will discuss a recent study performed by ZEBx, in which three life cycle assessment (LCA) methods were used to determine the embodied carbon emissions associated with Passive House Part 9 buildings in Vancouver. The three LCA methods in question are: (1) material takeoffs combined with environmental product declarations, (2) the Builders for Climate Action Material Emissions Calculator, and (3) the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings. These methods were applied to three Passive House single-family homes with similar construction materials, yet ranging in size and structural features. Overall, the results of this study provide key insights on LCA method selection as well as on the impacts of design choices on the embodied carbon emissions of Part 9 buildings.


Diana Lopez – Research Manager, Campus as a Living Lab

As a Research Manager at the UBC Sustainability Initiative, Diana contributes to multiple interdisciplinary research and knowledge dissemination projects and initiatives focused on sustainable buildings and urban development within the UBC campus. She has conducted research and participated in the creation of educational materials for multiple projects on campus, and she currently manages research for the Campus as a Living Lab initiative, including the ongoing Embodied Carbon Pilot. Diana holds a Master of Applied Science in Civil Engineering from UBC, and a diverse background in project management and applied research focused on embodied carbon, green buildings, urban infrastructure and sustainable development. She is a LEED Green Associate and a Certified Associate in Project Management.

Oriana Vanderfleet - PhD Candidate

Oriana completed a summer internship at ZEBx through UBC’s Sustainability Scholars program, where she quantified embodied carbon emissions for Passive House Part 9 buildings. Oriana is currently wrapping up her PhD at UBC and McMaster University, where she has focused on improving the performance of cellulose-based nanomaterials in high temperature applications.


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