The times that we live in require that we carefully calculate our decisions’ impact on the earth. We need to consciously take our reusable bags to the store and opt for products that don’t have plastic packaging. We all try to reduce our carbon footprint on the earth in whatever way we can.
But how can we reduce our footprint when building a new home? The very first thing that people might think of is installing energy-efficient products and appliances. While this does help, stop and think about the amount of energy (and therefore carbon dioxide) it takes to manufacture and transport those things.
When it comes to buildings, there are two types of energy that can be looked at when determining your carbon footprint: operational and embodied energy.
Operational energy is the amount of energy needed to cool, heat, and power your home. Embodied energy is the energy that went into constructing your home.
For example, in the production of steel, a considerable amount of carbon is emitted during the mining, manufacturing, and transporting processes.
Steps to Reduce your Carbon Footprint
The thought of calculating the embodied energy of every little thing in your home might be overwhelming at first, but there are a few ways to reduce your footprint during your home construction.
1. Renovate instead of building new
Sourcing materials for a new build will use enormous embodied energy. It is more carbon conscious to renovate an existing home. This cuts out the manufacturing and transporting of many materials. The fewer resources your build uses, the smaller the carbon footprint will be. This avoids the new emissions that demolishing and rebuilding would create. It is also a good idea to limit the size of your building so as not to increase the embodied energy footprint too much with unnecessary materials.
2. Choose durable materials
By choosing materials, you need to replace less often, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your build. Although this might cost more, you will save in the long run by not having to replace carpets or drywall every couple of years. You will also be reducing the carbon footprint of your home.
3. Opt for local products
The shorter the distance the materials need to travel, the smaller the carbon footprint will be. This is due to the fuel that is used when transporting the materials. Research local suppliers for as much material for the build as possible.
4. Go natural
Naturally occurring materials like wood don’t contribute to the carbon footprint when produced. In other words, no manufacturing process is involved in producing a tree. Man-made or synthetic materials always have a higher carbon footprint. Cellulose or cotton insulation has a very low embodied energy footprint, whereas polyester insulation has a very high embodied energy footprint. Avoiding carbon-intensive materials altogether might not be plausible, but every little change helps in the long run.
5. Recycle or reclaim
When you use recycled or reclaimed materials, no embodied energy goes into producing that specific thing used in your home. Although it may have had an embodied energy footprint before, you are reusing it; therefore, that carbon footprint has already been spent. Many mainstream options incorporate recycling into the production of their materials. You can also look at things like salvaged hardwood flooring, salvaged wood for wall coverings, or bricks from another demolished building.
6. Focus on renewables
It’s a good idea to consider appliances or additions to your home that will offset your carbon footprint over time. Installing solar panels will mean your home will use less electricity and have a reduced carbon footprint. While this option might not consider the embodied energy that goes into the production of the materials, it can offset a part of the footprint through the operating energy.
Work with professionals
Reducing your carbon footprint or your embodied energy footprint during the construction of your home is not an extremely difficult task. There are ways to reduce your footprint by using the tips above. It is important, however, that you work with a skilled architect or builder that can ensure the lowest possible carbon footprint without compromising the strength and safety of your home.