Andrew Himes

On September 11, 2018 in San Francisco, three hundred people from across the building industry met to learn from each other and consider a shared vision pairing planetary health with business acumen, social impact with problem-solving, professional expertise with unprecedented collaboration.

The meeting was called Carbon Smart Building Day, an event formally affiliated with the Global Climate Action Summit. The Summit was convened by Patricia Espinosa of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by Governor Jerry Brown, and by Michael Bloomberg, among others. Participants at Carbon Smart Building Day included architects and engineers, policy-makers, developers, construction companies, real estate owners and investors, material suppliers, academic researchers, and every major non-governmental organization (NGO) in the building industry in North American.

The conference opened with the public launch of the Carbon Smart Building Declaration, which had been signed by virtually all the companies or NGOs present, along with most of the individual conference participants. Since September, the Declaration has been signed by many more companies and individuals. It is intended to be at once a statement of the urgency of addressing climate change, an affirmation of the benefits that flow from decarbonizing the built environment, and a call to action.

Text of the Declaration

We acknowledge that we hold this world in trust and recognize the immediate threat climate change and its impacts pose to current and future generations. We cannot address the climate crisis without eliminating carbon emissions from the built environment, which today accounts for more than 40 percent of greenhouse gases. Moreover, building space is expected to double by 2050 — the equivalent of adding another New York City every 35 days, which will sharply increase embodied carbon emissions from new construction. We, therefore, must act urgently and collectively to transform the built environment from a leading driver of climate change to a significant and profitable solution.

To confront this crisis, we must dramatically remake the built environment by:

  • Making use of all available technologies and processes to ensure that new construction projects begin and end with net-zero carbon emissions in mind.
  • Taking an active, data-driven approach to eliminate energy waste in new and existing buildings.
  • Minimizing embodied carbon in buildings by embracing low-carbon and carbon sequestering building materials and processes.
  • Accelerating the growth of distributed energy resources (such as targeted solar, wind, and storage) that enable buildings to play their role in the decarbonization of our energy systems.

To this end, we will intensify our efforts to improve building sustainability in design, development, ownership, management, measurement, tools, investment and material supply chains — to maximize environmental, economic and equity outcomes, using market-based principles to scale solutions for all and have global impact.

We are inspired by the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. We challenge companies, cities, states and regions to reach net zero emissions in all new buildings by 2030, and to retrofit existing buildings to meet net zero carbon targets by 2050. We support carbon smart building as a global movement to create maximum collective impact.

Together, we can help draw down excess atmospheric carbon and create a built environment that supports a healthy, equitable, and sustainable human community.

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Carbon Smart Building

Decarbonizing the built environment

Andrew Himes

Written by

Author, technologist, imagineer, coordinator of Carbon Smart Building, consultant with www.carboninnovations.org.

Carbon Smart Building

Decarbonizing the built environment

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