Achieving Zero creates framework to lower emissions in the built environment

The Achieving Zero framework provides guidelines to phase out carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the urban built environment by 2050. Image courtesy Achieving Zero
The Achieving Zero framework provides guidelines to phase out carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the urban built environment by 2050.
Image courtesy Achieving Zero

Environmental advocacy group Architecture 2030 has released Achieving Zero, a ‘how-to’ framework and a set of tools to enable cities and sub-national governments (state, provincial, and regional) to reach emissions reduction targets in the building sector.

According to the group, reaching a 50 percent carbon emissions reduction in the built environment by 2030, and zero emissions by 2050, is critical to successfully manage climate change.

Achieving Zero provides solutions based on the research and building stock analyses from the Zero Cities Project (a three-year effort to support cities to co-develop and implement roadmaps and policy strategies to achieve a zero-carbon building sector by 2050) for 11 U.S. cities and provides a consistent, targeted emissions reduction framework to follow, customize, and implement.

The actions required to meet emissions reduction targets for the building sector are:

  • electricity grid decarbonization by powering the building sector with carbon-free renewable electricity;
  • building decarbonization by employing efficiency strategies and eliminating onsite fossil fuel use by fully electrifying all buildings and/or by sourcing carbon-free thermal energy; and
  • embodied carbon emissions reductions by lowering the embodied carbon emissions of building and infrastructure construction materials 40 percent today and increasing the reduction target to 45 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and zero emissions by 2050.

Key strategies for new buildings include:

  • adopt a Zero-Net-Carbon (ZNC) code standard for new building construction and major renovations that integrate cost-effective energy-efficiency standards with onsite and/or offsite carbon-free renewable electricity sources; and
  • require fully electric buildings and/or source carbon-free thermal energy.

Strategies for existing buildings are:

  • a big buildings policy considering short- and long-term energy upgrade policies that allow ample time to align with capital improvement cycles; and
  • a small buildings policy accelerating small building energy upgrades by enacting policies at specific building intervention points such as point-of-sale, point-of-lease, major renovations, and equipment replacements.

To address embodied carbon, the framework suggests enacting prescriptive and performance specifications and policies for low- to carbon-positive infrastructure, buildings, and materials.

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