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Is the Greenest Building the One Already Standing?

Format: Maps & Exhibits, RSD10, Topic: Socioecological Design

Shaun Alfonso, Carly Benson, Véronique Claude, and Samah Kamalmaz

Supervised by Jeremy Bowes and Peter Jones

OCAD University, Canada

Buildings contribute 39% to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and 17% to Canada’s GHG emissions. Addressing carbon emissions from the built environment is an urgent, critical need to progress towards our global climate targets. There are two primary sources of GHG emissions connected to buildings: embodied carbon, which is the carbon emitted in materials extraction, manufacturing, transport, construction, and decommissioning, and operational carbon, which is the carbon emitted to power and heats the building while in use. Taken together, these two types of emissions are called whole-life carbon. As power grids in Canada decarbonize and on-site energy generation becomes more common, embodied carbon will contribute a more significant percentage to a building’s carbon profile and be a more impactful avenue for intervention. However, delaying action on represented carbon risks “locking in” a higher carbon profile in the built environment for the next 50 to 60 years, the typical lifespan of Canadian buildings.

This synthesis map explores the full carbon profile of buildings to understand better the influences, challenges, and opportunities to reduce carbon emissions from the building sector.

Reading greenest building

We invite you to read this map starting from the introduction on the left side, then explore the five sections – which are titled, coded with stakeholder icons, and have brief descriptions – in the order that interests you. The legend on the bottom left explains the icons used to identify the critical stakeholders for each map section.

The design brief provides a more detailed exploration of the topic, including the background and context for each element of the synthesis map and a roadmap for reaching a net-zero building sector by 2050.

synthesis map




Citation Data

Author(s): Shaun Alfonso, Carly Benson, Véronique Claude, and Samah Kamalmaz
Title: Is the Greenest Building the One Already Standing?
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 1 September 2021
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