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How to build smart zero carbon buildings and why it matters

Gaurav Bali
Gaurav Bali

9th September 2022

Introduction

In the modern digital era, intelligent buildings are highly emerging. Similar to automobiles, they will eventually make the most of automated systems that can determine precisely how resources are being used and when maintenance and repairs are necessary. We must make the transition to a zero-carbon culture as soon as possible in order to stop global warming and preserve a planet that is habitable for future generations. To attain zero emissions, there are many different strategies you can use, such as using electric vehicles or converting to renewable energy. Another is constructing carbon-neutral structures. Modern technology is required for buildings to achieve Net Zero carbon norms, much as cars are fundamentally becoming greener with the introduction of electric vehicles. In this blog, we will discuss smart zero-carbon building techniques and their importance.

What are Smart Zero Carbon Buildings?

Smart Zero Carbon Buildings are extremely energy-efficient structures that produce carbon-free renewable energy on-site or buy high-quality carbon offsets to compensate for the annual carbon emissions produced by their construction and operation. In other terms, a net-zero energy building is a structure in which energy production equals or exceeds energy consumption. 

A smart zero carbon building either produces more energy than it uses or equals it. This entails that you can utilize the building’s electricity without paying for it, saving you money on your electricity costs. It is not surprising that the Earth’s resources are swiftly running out while climate change affects the planet since the degree of global pollution is taking a toll. Living in a net-zero energy building means you’re in a cleaner environment because they consume a lot less electricity than conventional homes and lessen their carbon footprint.

How does Smart Zero Carbon Building Work?

To reach their zero-carbon status, smart zero-carbon buildings take a variety of carbon reduction techniques, including:

High-Performance R-Values for Roofs and Walls

How strongly insulation resists heat flow is shown by its R-value. The resistance and thermal properties improve with increasing value. When the finishing touches are added to the insulation work during the detailing stage, zero-carbon buildings acquire a high R-value in the roofs and walls. Builders use air-sealing techniques like caulking and weatherstripping in all corners and make sure that insulation overlaps to fill up all gaps.

Triple-Glazed Windows

According to the research, 25–30% of conventional buildings’ home heating and cooling expenses can be attributed to heat input and loss through windows. Zero-carbon buildings circumvent this problem by utilizing triple-glazed windows, which are particularly more energy-efficient. This does not, however, result in fewer windows on each building. In general, zero-emissions buildings can have window-to-wall ratios as high as 40%, ensuring high-efficiency standards while allowing natural light to enter.

Systemized Outdoor Air Sources

Dedicated outdoor air systems are HVAC systems that have two independent systems: one for the building’s ventilation with outdoor air and the other to deal with the heat generated within. 

This zero-carbon building strategy utilizes less energy than a conventional HVAC system.

Building Automation Systems

Building automation systems are used in zero-carbon structures to manage HVAC and lighting. For instance, sensors turn off lights automatically when a room is empty. Utilizing such sophisticated systems lowers energy waste brought on by people.

Solar Energy

Solar power, one of the most accessible energy sources globally, is used as the primary energy source in the majority of zero-carbon buildings. It is a carbon-free source of energy and is also reasonably simple to install. By using it, the structure is protected from changes in the electricity grid, such as power outages brought on by severe weather. Additionally, passive solar architecture is a popular heating method in zero-carbon homes. The sun’s heat is accumulated by passive solar methods when it enters through south-facing windows. Concrete and other thermal mass materials gather the heat and disperse it progressively throughout the house.

Why are Smart Zero-Carbon Buildings Crucial?

Smart Zero carbon buildings (ZCBs) are extremely energy-efficient structures that, over the course of a year, are powered entirely by carbon-free, renewable energy. This energy is either generated on-site or is bought from the grid. The Paris Commitment, which calls for all new construction to be ZCBs by 2030 and all structures to be smart ZCBs by 2050, has emphasized the importance of making the switch to smart ZCBs. Due to their affordability, technological viability, and political viability, operational carbon is the main emphasis of most roadmaps and action plans created by nations and cities. This is not meant to minimize the significance of resolving carbon embodied in construction technologies and materials for construction, which can vary significantly depending on local conditions and require reliable testing methods to estimate their carbon content.

Buildings with zero carbon emissions are essential in the fight against global warming. Nearly a third of current worldwide carbon emissions come from buildings. By 2050, the energy consumption of buildings may rise by up to 50% as a result of the expanding global population. However, the switch to a low-carbon, energy-efficient building industry might result in 50% energy savings. Buildings used for residential, commercial, and institutional purposes account for 17% of emissions in Canada. The Canadian government established the Pan-Canadian Framework for Climate Change and Clean Growth in 2016. This framework contains a goal for the adoption of a net-zero building code by all regions and provinces by 2030.

What Advantages Do Smart Zero-Carbon Buildings Offer?

Buildings with net zero energy are a desirable investment for any company wishing to benefit from tax breaks and incentives. What about the advantages, though? The basic answer is that these future structures will work more efficiently than conventional structures in terms of time, money, and resources. The following are some of the primary benefits of smart zero carbon facility construction.

Highly Economical

Smart Zero-Carbon Buildings offer their owners a number of benefits and are thought of as the next generation of intelligent houses. In the long run, these structures may be less expensive than conventional structures and create clean energy. Additionally, they often require less upkeep and use less electricity. In the end, it is a prudent decision to turn your house or business premises into one of these structures for your own good.

High Reliability

Smart Zero-Carbon Buildings are more reliable than the typical commercial building. The buildings include fuel cell-powered generators, so you won’t have to worry about shortages, electricity spikes, or brownouts. In an emergency, generators can be turned on; they will turn themselves off when the electricity is restored.

Environmentally responsible

The Smart Zero-Carbon Building structure is sustainable and good for the environment. These structures cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. The net-zero energy building also depends on technology that allows it to use its resources more effectively than a regular building. This indicates that compared to other building types, net-zero energy structures have a reduced ecological impact.

Lower carbon emissions

Environmentally considered, net zero energy buildings are preferable to traditional ones. They produce less carbon dioxide than other sources, which makes your house or place of business cleaner to live in. Additionally, compared to conventional buildings, these structures consume a lot less electricity, saving you money on your electricity bill. Your money account will get a lift from all of these advantages, and your living space will be clean.

Greater resale value

Less maintenance will be required for buildings built with energy-efficient technology like zero-carbon strategy. Since net-zero energy structures are more coveted and expensive, your house will cost much more to own due to the decreased maintenance. Net-zero energy structures additionally benefit from having greater resale values.

Wellbeing Concerns

Buildings with zero carbon emissions also have advantages for your health. Their cutting-edge ventilation systems and impermeable insulation produce clean, fresh interior air devoid of pollutants from the outside. Also requires a lot of sunlight to enter, and passive solar technology floods zero-carbon structures with natural light. Numerous health advantages of natural light include higher vitamin D, improved sleep, and a decreased risk of seasonal sadness.

How can Zero-Carbon buildings be achieved?

According to the Paris Agreement and nearly all climate scientists, the world economy must reach zero net carbon emissions by 2050 in order to avert the worst forecasted climate disruptions. To do this, all buildings and the transportation that goes with them must achieve zero net carbon emissions. Up until recently, the majority of the debate and work has been devoted to lowering carbon emissions brought on by the energy required to operate buildings. Although there is still a long way to go before we attain zero operational energy, it is now time for homebuilders, designers, and buyers to focus on the end result and begin the journey toward zero net carbon.

Start with Zero Energy

It is advised to begin the construction of a zero-energy home immediately if you are a builder or designer. The construction of zero-energy homes is simple and makes use of technology that is easily accessible off the market. The procedures mentioned here can be used to construct them by any qualified builder or contractor. A crucial first step in creating zero-net carbon houses is designing and constructing a zero-energy home. These emit no carbon during operation, and they also get rid of or balance the emissions caused by the building’s materials, building methods, maintenance, and decommissioning.

Go all Electric with Renewable Sources

Making all of your buildings electrified with electricity sourced from renewable sources is the most efficient way to cut carbon emissions from your facilities. Some examples of renewable sources are community solar, rooftop solar, or power from a utility that only employs renewable energy sources. Natural gas use, which is the primary contributor to direct carbon emissions from buildings, will be ended due to the Paris Agreement. Compared to natural gas equipment, highly efficient electrical appliances, heat pump water heaters, driers, and ventilation systems are significantly more energy efficient. Going all-electric will significantly reduce overall energy use and carbon emissions while enhancing comfort and durability. This can be accomplished in conjunction with building insulation and air sealing.

Cut back Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Embodied carbon is the total amount of carbon dioxide released during the production, transportation, use, and disposal of building materials. According to Architecture 2030, embodied carbon will be responsible for roughly half of the carbon footprint of new construction by 2050. Furthermore, according to the New Buildings Institute, buildings’ embedded carbon is responsible for 11% of all global carbon emissions. Considering ways to lower embodied carbon in buildings raises a number of queries. Which building materials contain the most carbon by weight? Those with the least? Which, if any, is capable of genuinely sequestering (absorbing and storing) carbon from the atmosphere?

Employ low-carbon building supplies

Thornton and Tomasetti discovered that structural components, including concrete slabs for floors and foundations, generated 55% of a building’s embodied carbon in their analysis of 600 buildings. They discovered that steel buildings had much more embodied carbon than concrete structures. In spite of this, far more concrete is used, which makes it the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the building industry and contributes to more than 8% of world emissions. Complete omission of these items from building plans is neither essential nor desired. Instead, choose low-carbon versions as well as low-carbon and carbon-sequestering substitutes, and then install or buy sufficient renewable energy generation capacity to balance the reduced quantity of embodied carbon that is still present.

Examine the amount of embodied carbon in your building design

The Carbon Life Cycle Assessment(LCA) is a crucial phase in the planning process. There are two key purposes for evaluating the embodied carbon in your building design. First, it enables you to determine the embodied carbon of particular materials you are thinking about using, enabling you to find and choose those that have the least negative environmental effects. Second, it determines the total amount of carbon your building produces throughout its entire life cycle, which must be offset either by generating and exporting renewable energy or, if necessary, by purchasing carbon offsets. For this aim, a variety of assessment instruments are available.

Solar collectors: The last phase

The final phase, which involves installing enough solar panels to counteract the embodied carbon in the building, is to quantify the carbon emissions of the life cycle of your building using an LCA and to express it in kilograms or pounds. 

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Conclusion

According to the Paris Agreement for ZCB, in order to meet climate targets and achieve net zero emissions by 2050, it will be essential to reduce carbon emissions in buildings. 39% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, including 28% from operations and 11% from building supplies and construction. By 2060, it is anticipated that there will be a doubling of the world's building floor space, yet only 3% of investments in new construction are green and efficient, resulting in long-term high emissions. Only 1% of old buildings are renovated, which is less than one-third of what is required to satisfy the Paris climate targets. Although there are many obstacles to constructing decarbonization, there are also many opportunities. Utilizing current, affordable technology, efficient, zero-carbon buildings decrease emissions while boosting local economies, equity, and public health.


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