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How to reduce a building's carbon emissions - pt 1

The built environment is responsible for 37% of energy-related carbon emissions, therefore has a responsibility when it comes to reducing its impact. Catriona Brady, Director of Strategy and Development at the World Green Building Council explains how it can be done.

“At an individual building level, there is so much that every person or organisation can do. Some of the core principles and a phrase I really like is to ‘Be lean, be clean and be green’” says Catriona. "Be lean" means being efficient in your energy use. "Be clean" is about the systems – ensuring they are sustainable in their power requirements and usage. “Be green” refers to the production and consumption of renewable energy. 

According to Catriona, people should consider the carbon emissions of a building across its whole life cycle, not just the emissions of that building when it’s operational. Taking a more holistic approach to decarbonising buildings can reduce emissions from the built environment now and in future. “We also need to change our thinking to consider the impacts of the way that we're operating or designing or using our building in terms of how it will impact the emissions it releases across its 50 to 100 year lifespan” says Catriona. 

Retrofitting is another important part of this conversation. Catriona explains that when it comes to decarbonising the cities we live in today, it’s typical that design principles and construction of new buildings come into play. However, Catriona says “we have to be able to decarbonise the spaces that already exist - the buildings and our cities that are already occupied and will have a lifespan of decades more to come”.

“Taking this integrated approach is so vital through the life cycle of how we create and use buildings, and also how we retrofit our buildings today so that we're preparing for these climatic changes and hopefully future-proofing.”

“We want people to be considering the whole life carbon emissions of a building or an asset, so not just the emissions of that specific building when it's operational.”