Engineering with a green eye

Green Point Engineering is situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory

Climate change is a great concern for us all and for our future, making awareness of our own impact is increasingly important. With this in mind, we need to know what options we have.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to offer your clients the potential impacts on global warming the carbon footprint of the project they want to build? Wouldn't it be great to have a carbon label on the construction of prefabricated products you sell? Good news! at Green Point Engineering we can help you with that!.

Knowing the carbon footprint of different alternatives for one product can help you make better decisions on your flows to produce such item. In the same manner, it will help your clients choose your product over your competition.

Let us backtrack for a second:

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, all nations must focus their efforts on carbon reduction. As an industry, building construction and operations must effectively eliminate greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal, new buildings being planned today must set zero carbon emissions as their target. On the adaptation front, not only should the retrofits of existing buildings emphasize deep emission reductions while simultaneously providing comfort to their occupants, but also be resilient to the new norm: i.e. more winds, floods, droughts, forest fires, etc.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has fixed the world’s available carbon budget – the maximum amount of GHGs that can be released into the atmosphere over time – at 420 gigs-tonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). It’s a target designed to keep global warming to 1.5 o C. However, at the world’s current rate of 40 Gt of carbon emissions per year, that budget will last a little more than 10 years before we risk a temperature increase that will significantly alter our climate.

The current expenditures of 40 Gt per year are broken down on the following chart

Canada has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the building sector will have a significant role to play in achieving that. Today, Canadian buildings account for almost 38% of all emissions when materials and operations are considered. If Canada is to reach its target, every building design and retrofit project must target zero carbon now.

All of this means that we must stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. To be able to reach this goal, we first need to know how much we are emitting–in other words, we must know the carbon footprint of our projects.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one method to help us determine the carbon footprint of things. It is the term we use to say that we analyze the whole life of a product, or sometimes part of it, from the environmental point of view in order to determine what pollutants are dumped on the environment.

It is life cycle thinking applied to a product that is involved to make a product and transport it to an installation site. In other words, what inputs and waste will occur related to using the product over its life, and what will happen to the product when it is no longer needed. Without measured data, we can only guess the true footprint of our choices.

LCA identifies hot spots in products, materials and whole buildings, and establishes the benchmarks against which improvements can be made.

If a building has to be built, embodied carbon can be reduced by performing a life cycle assessment (LCA) before construction. An LCA for a building determines environment-related inputs and outputs (e.g. water, energy, raw materials, labour, airborne emissions and other EPDs) for each stage of a building’s life cycle and subsequently determines corresponding environmental impacts such as climate emissions.

One technology that gets us there would be Building Information Management (BIM). As per BIM principles call, the goal is to design buildings in 7 dimensions: x, y, z, cost, time, environment and decommission. We all are familiar with the first five; as per Environment, it is the CO2 and other pollutants that need to be accounted for in the design process and reduced to net zero and decommission means how to recycle or put down the materials without sending more GHG to the atmosphere, which happens for example when wood is recycled for wood chips.

Reduce to net-zero means, as the word net suggests, get to zero after all is being added and subtracted from the equation. In any product, there would probably be an upfront carbon footprint that needs to be offset with savings during its operation. Take solar panels, for example, It takes about three years with the panels in use to make up for the carbon emitted in making them. It is only beyond those three years the real savings in carbon emissions begin to show, those first three years are the return period.

With all these and various aspects in mind, and with the help of building information modelling (BIM) we put together a comprehensive system where if one decision affects other elements, it can be pinpointed and acted upon.

At Green Point Engineering, we have updated ourselves on several things green, like doing life cycle assessments (LCA) for buildings and structures for assessing environmental impacts associated with all stages of the life cycle, applying BIM principles, and obtaining an “on point” life cycle assessment, all of this covering all pertinent parts of applicable codes.

Right now, we have the ability to work on the first stage of the whole building LC, construction, A1 to A5. We are building synergies with professionals of other disciplines to take on the operation stage of the LCA. and will be prepared soon to offer the assessment of the last stage, decommission.

Book here for a free personal consultation to find out more: