At the University of Minnesota’s College of Design several projects have been developed to advance more cost-effective, more environmentally aware buildings, infrastructure, and even communities. One very useful program they’ve developed falls under the Building Evaluation category. It’s called the CBSR Site and Building Design Carbon Calculator. What does it do? It measures the carbon footprint of any building or site. In other words, it measures greenhouse gas emissions from sites and from building development. Even better, it can be used by both professionals and the general public alike, for either existing or future structures. Indeed, after downloading the calculator, which is very well-researched and comprehensive, it is clear that this tool is self-explanatory and very easy-to-use.
Upon downloading the tool, one can see immediately the categories that it will calculate. These were based on other carbon calculators, as well as the researchers’ determination of “all reasonable sources of greenhouse gas emissions that result from design, construction, operation and demolition or recycling” of both a site or a building. It begins with a Base Case which includes the immediate, recurring annual and total impacts over the life of the building or site. From there, the calculator progresses to Operating Energy, Potable Water, Wastewater Transport, and then Soil, and Vegetation. Of these, the most detailed categories are Operating Energy, Transport and Vegetation. So for example, the category of Operating Energy calculates the natural gas, fuel oil, and electricity on site in MBtu, and it then converts these measurements into the amount of Carbon Dioxide in pounds. For the Potable and Wastewater categories, Carbon Dioxide is measured in gallons. Once all these numbers are determined, it is easy enough to convert to the metric system.
So how is this useful? Perhaps designers, developers and owners are not interested in being ecologically efficient. But the utility of this carbon calculator is that it can help people make better decisions about design, development, or renovation. In other words, this calculator can help determine the most effective use of resources and materials for a particular site or building design. This calculator can also improve the ability to comply with regulations, or to attain certain tax-saving designations. Overall, measuring the different greenhouse gas emitters can result in a more efficient use of land and resources, and that can promote better cost-efficiency, which everyone wants.