How can we halve the footprint of the built environment this decade? Buildings generate approximately 40% of total annual global carbon dioxide emissions. Of this total, building operations are responsible for approximately 28% annually, while the embodied carbon of building materials and construction is responsible for 11% annually. This requires us to halve the emissions of the existing building stock, and those of all future buildings.
We have been tackling this question through both practice and academic research. At MASS, this challenge has been a fundamental underpinning of our approach to new construction and adaptive reuse. Through deep engagements with local craftspeople and regional material ecologies we’ve uncovered the inextricable link between lower life cycle emissions with social justice. Our investigations into the relationships between structural efficiency, passive systems, and low-carbon materials have resulted in projects that emit less than half the status quo.
This is also central question of the Ha/f Research Studio where students work with practices across North America to undertake detailed Life Cycle Assessments of recently completed or under construction projects to develop a deeper understanding of material emissions and provenance of material supply chains, as well as the operational expectations for the buildings. This research has revealed the fundamental drivers of material emissions in contemporary construction, and how a whole life carbon perspective is critical to achieving the radical reductions required.