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October 5, 2021

Nelson council does ‘ground-breaking’ research on carbon footprint of buildings

The City of Nelson will meet with builders, architects and others in the construction industry in the next few months to talk about embodied carbon.

That’s the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials (e.g., concrete, foam insulation and steel).

Project coordinator Natalie Douglas is heading a low-carbon homes pilot project funded by FortisBC as part of the implementation of Nelson’s climate plan Nelson Next. It’s the first such work by a small city in Canada.

The goal, she told council at its Sept. 28 meeting, is to provide information and engage people in the building community on how Nelson and Castlegar can assist builders and homeowners who wish to reduce the embodied carbon in new buildings. The pilot project, which started earlier this year and runs until December, will not include any regulatory changes imposed on builders.

Douglas is supported in the project by City of Nelson building inspector Sam Ellison.

The first step has been to calculate the amount of embodied carbon in a typical house in Nelson and Castlegar. Douglas and her team analyzed 35 new houses in Nelson and Castlegar over the past few months by entering building data into a specialized tool developed by the group Builders for Climate Action in Ontario.

Much of the data collection and analysis work was done by Michele Deluca, a local energy advisor with 3 West Building Energy Consultants and a member of the pilot team.

The results of the pilot are summarized on a video presented by Chris Magwood of Builders for Climate Action, in which he lists the most carbon-intensive building materials in the 35 homes and their carbon footprints. He said the average carbon footprint of the materials in those homes was 26.4 tonnes per home.

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