Builders for Climate Action, a Canadian advocacy group, has proposed the development of a Carbon Use Intensity metric for new buildings.
The plan would measure embodied carbon in building products to include in an overall assessment of a building’s carbon footprint. The group says that choosing building materials with low levels of embodied carbon can have a larger impact on climate change than focusing solely on energy efficiency.
The Carbon Use Intensity metric would combine the impact of operational carbon, embodied carbon, and carbon intensity of the local electric grid. The broader approach is necessary to ensure that Canada’s progress toward carbon neutrality doesn’t stall, the group says.
Researchers found that houses built to more stringent energy standards may have higher levels of embedded carbon because they usually have more insulation in them. Thicker layers of insulation such as closed-cell polyurethane foam can add a significant amount of carbon in the building.