Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Environmental Design

First Advisor

Wil Srubar

Second Advisor

Georgia Lindsay

Third Advisor

Kimberly Drennan

Abstract

The building industry is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere when compared with any other industry (USGBC, 2013). This fact has lead the industry to take noticeable steps to reduce their carbon footprint and the green building industry has been a direct response. Green buildings currently focus on reducing operational energy consumption. Yet, aside from operational energy, materials and construction make-up a large portion of a building’s total carbon emissions throughout its life cycle. This report seeks to inform the industry about the impact that embodied carbon has on a building’s carbon footprint and articulates ways in which to use embodied carbon as a design philosophy throughout the design process. Currently, building information modeling (BIM) software informs design decisions during the design process. BIM software highlights opportunities for project teams to reduce their structures environmental impacts. The software is mostly used to educate teams about operational energy consumption, however, it can be used the same way to develop strategies to reduce the embodied carbon footprint. Project teams that neglect to use life cycle assessment (LCA) information to inform their designs are limiting chances to reduce their environmental footprint as much as possible. This study is a housing case study which highlights the effectiveness of BIM software to inform embodied carbon design decisions that result in a reduced carbon footprint. This study analyzes the embodied carbon of a low operational energy house’s envelope and illustrates how reductions can be made during the design phase. This study demonstrates how project teams can significantly reduce their building’s carbon footprint by incorporating LCA into their design process.

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