Things you didn’t know about embedded carbon

There has become an increased awareness of the embodied carbon and the products we use in construction. A knowledgeable Owner’s representative or Project manager if part of the team can consult to benefit the project in reducing the quantity or volume of products with high embodied carbon.The amount of concrete consumed in new foundations with the increased structural requirements has a huge amount of embodied carbon due to the high temperatures required to create portland cement. Similarly, fenestrations in new buildings and homes have huge amounts of aluminum framed windows. These also have a high embodied carbon due the requirements for extracting, processing and fabricating aluminum. Below is a couple of databases that can be accessed online for free to help you measure the carbon embedded in your building.

Quartz

Accessed online for free, Quartz is a “common product” database—meaning it represents the typical impacts of about 100 generic products. Profiles include not only embodied carbon numbers but also other embodied impacts (like smog-formation potential) as well as material health data (like whether the product includes carcinogens during its life cycle).

Compared with ICE, which looks at broad groups of materials like aluminum and concrete, Quartz is much more specific. Rather than aluminum, for example, it has profiles for anodized aluminum curtainwall extrusions and PVDF-coated aluminum curtainwall extrusions.

The Quartz database is rich in product information, but, like ICE, it reports data by weight rather than by functional unit. It does this, according to the website, because the “exact function, quantity, duration, and quality of the product within the building are unknown, and the installation and use phases of the life cycle are omitted.” This means you can only compare insulation products, for instance, by weight instead of by thermal performance. In order to really make comparisons, the latter is needed, and that requires WBLCA.

Carbon Designer

An add-on to One Click LCA , Carbon Designer is a sophisticated early-phase tool that allows for quick side-by-side comparisons of a baseline building (chosen by the user based on region, building dimensions, and other parameters) and a design building (produced by making changes to the baseline assumptions). It’s very much a “what if” tool: what if I altered my concrete mix, or what if I changed the type of slab I’m using? Charts show what the proposed changes would do to the embodied carbon footprint of different building assemblies.

A barrier to more widespread use of this software is that it can only be purchased as part of a package with a WBLCA tool.

As an Owner’s Representative and Project Manager I counsel the design team to try and minimize the amount of embedded carbon. I do these types of consultations in my work in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa county.

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Environmental Factors in Home Building

The report below is an example of how much detail and care go into the construction of a custom home. It is not as simple as designing a home then going in to build. As we discussed in the last blog, there are many factors to consider when building a home. The location, the environmental threats, height, size, and geographic location are just a few factors that must be taken into account when building a home. It is also always important to remember that while cutting costs may save you money now, it can cost a great deal more in the long term. The damage cutting corners causes can often times lead to families having to take out a mortgage,  sell their homes or worse, go into foreclosure because the fix becomes too great a burden. The following is an (edited) report authored by Richard Wodehouse, Principal of West Coast Project Management. This home most likely had faulty stucco used at the time of the build. This coupled with the wind is starting to cause some potentially costly issues. 

Remember to consider the weather.

This residence is a three story contemporary design with large glass fenestrations facing the direction the winter storms attack this site from. It is located in such a way that it catches the full brunt of wind and rain. In the winter of 2018/2019 the San Francisco area receive unusually frequent and strong storms with record amounts of rain.  There have been an unusually high number of failures in homes resulting from the rains, landslides, and leaks.  West Coast Project Management Inc. has been called to investigate and repair other weather related problems in the area.  Roofing and waterproofing contractors are booked for the entire season.

GLAZING:

I observed that most of the north facing windows and doors had failed in that the dual glaze panels exhibited  a “rainbow effect” which is caused by the two panes of glass touching each other.  The cause of the collapsed glass is typically the result of the perimeter seals on the dual glazing failing and the gas encapsulated in the space between the two pains of glass escaping allowing the glass to bend towards each other from wind pressure.

As I will elaborate on in the discussion on stucco following, it is possible that moisture allowed to come into contact with the edge seals of the glass panels has exacerbated the rate of deterioration of the perimeter seals allowing the gas to escape.

STUCCO

I observed that the stucco on this residence was the synthetic type that was popular during the time this home was constructed.  The dominant product name at the time was Dryvit, a type of EIFS wall system that used foam insulation panels with a thin coat of an acrylic coating that mimics stucco in appearance.  

There were extensive lawsuits regarding moisture problems related to the use of this EIFS system.  If there are any areas where water can enter behind the acrylic coating it is trapped as this coating is non-breathable and therefore the moisture stays inside the wall potentially and probably causing damage to any surface it is touching.

The home showed signs of white discoloration around stucco cracks which is evidence of water  that entered elsewhere exiting at various locations on the North facing wall.

DECK WATERPROOFING FAILURE

There is evidence indicating that the deck extending out on the north elevation allowed water to penetrate the building.  I did not attempt to find the cause of this leak as the owner at the time had extensive plastic tenting covering the deck. (end of report)

It is likely that the owners of this home were not the one to have the stucco put in, but they will be the ones to pay the price. This is why it is so important to have an experienced and knowledgeable project manager or owner’s rep helping you build your home. A good project manager knows which corners are ok to cut and which ones you cannot. 

San Francisco is windy and damp year round, but the Bay Area is filled with micro climates. Marin, for example, is substantially warmer and sees a great deal more sun than San Francisco. The beach areas have the added difficulty of salt in the air which has its own set of challenges to consider. Sonoma county and Napa are considerably hotter and drier. Richard Wodehouse at West Coast Project Management Inc. has over 45 years of experience building custom homes, in many different climates. He is passionate about building custom homes and cares about homes being built to last, and built with the most recent technology in energy efficiency. 

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Happy Earth Day! WHY we need a Green New Deal NOW

Happy Earth Day! WHY we need a Green New Deal NOW
green new deal
Photo by Miriam Espacio on Unsplash
Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the next few generations of the human race. The more information one acquires the more daunting it feels. It is said that we have 12 years before climate change will cause irreversible damage to the bulk of life on this planet. It seems that every time we hear these predictions a year goes by and not enough has changed and our time keeps getting shorter. For example, almost every report that has been published in the last two years predicting how fast the ice will melt has been surpassed by a new report that states how much quicker it is currently receding. Climate deniers such as Trump are slowing down the progress that is dire for the survival of an inhabitable Earth. This has an impact on beautiful places like and around the Bay Area. It puts the beaches in San Francisco at risk, as well as the beaches in Marin.
 

The green new deal was presented to Congress a few weeks ago as a lofty goal encompassing many of the features that would benefit humans and the planet in the long run. Yet it is being challenged as “socialist”, liberal conspiracy or impossible to pay for. This is the argument that has been posed over and over whenever any environmental issues are presented. It is said that it is going to kill jobs it’s going to hurt the economy it’s impossible for the automakers to meet the mileage goals, on and on with the complaints.

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The Green New Deal Explained

The Green New Deal Explained

Wikipedia states it thus: “The Green New Deal is a set of proposed economic stimulus programs in the United States that aim to address climate change and economic inequality”. Pretty good goals wouldn’t you say?

Data for progress states it this way: “A Green New Deal is necessary to meet the scale and urgency of environmental challenges facing the United States, based on the best available research. A Green New Deal can bring job growth and economic opportunity, with particular focus on historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.” Wow! Can we really pull this off? Data for progress follows up by stating: “A Green New Deal is financially feasible and necessary”

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GREEN NEW DEAL

GREEN NEW DEAL

In my work as a residential construction Owner’s Representative and Project Manager I get to interact with some very interesting clients. Just recently I had a thrilling discussion with one of my owners over the Green New Deal currently being proposed by the democrats.

I am certain that the ramifications of climate change are far greater than is being acknowledged in the media or known by the bulk of the public. There are insidious collateral damages that have a chain reaction effect threatening the balance of nature. Our planet is a living entity that has evolved over 3.5 billion years to become the cradle for the abundant life that we know and enjoy daily. Just two samples, the death of coral reefs which are the nursery for much of ocean life, or as we are just hearing now, the drastic decline in insect population world wide, will have impacts on the overall balance of nature that we cannot accurately predict.

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