Home >Articles >RESTalk EP 94: Embodied Carbon in Housing

RESTalk EP 94: Embodied Carbon in Housing

Apr 12, 2022

“Science does not know its debt to imagination. “-Ralph Waldo Emerson 


More and more we hear of the impact of carbon on our society and environment.

Recent data says that operational carbon (the carbon that comes from energy, heat, lighting, etc.) is becoming less of a factor.

Now, attention is shifting to embodied carbon – the carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole lifecycle of a building or infrastructure.

Today we are joined by Andy Buccino (HERS® Rater and Passive House US for Stephens & Company), Mike Browne (HERS® Rater, Advanced Building Analysis, LLC, President, Energy Raters of Massachusetts), and Sara DeVico (Green Building Services Manager, Building Efficiency Resources). All are very active in the Northeast Home Energy Rating System (NEHERS) Alliance or NEHERS.

They form the core of the NEHERS® Alliance Embodied Carbon Working group which is interested in collaborating with individuals and organizations that can help achieve the following goals:

1) Adaptation of the HERS® index software to include embodied carbon in the calculations.

2) Conducting a baseline study for the Northeast.

Additionally, and simultaneously, they seek support from Energy Efficiency programs to help incentivize the market and adopt carbon tracking as a standard practice.

RESNET Certified Home Energy Raters already collect data to produce detailed reports defining Operational Emissions for the HERS® Index. Much of the data collected for the HERS® Index overlaps with the data needed to calculate Embodied Carbon Emissions. RESNET has recently released an ANSI standard on how to calculate the carbon impacts of an individual house or building to address the issue.

They have developed a worksheet that outlines the approximately 65 data points already being collected in one of the RESNET Accredited HERS® Rater Software Systems that apply to both operational and embodied construction carbon emissions, with a list of additional items that would need to be added for a comprehensive carbon outlook of the built environment.

With some simple software innovations, it is possible to produce an Embodied Construction Carbon calculation as a quantifiable output alongside the operational calculations already being used. Designers and builders can use these calculations to dial in both energy and carbon targets as they select building components for a given project.

You can learn more about and join the activities of the NEHERS® Embodied Carbon Working Group here, including a letter of support at https://www.nehers.org/embodied-carbon.

Listen to the full episode here.