In an article published in American School & University, HMFH Senior Associate and Sustainability Leader Suni Dillard outlines how a school community can evaluate potential carbon impact when determining whether to renovate an existing facility or build new. Suni uses Bristol County Agricultural High School as a case study, as the project included comparable buildings—one suitable for renovation and the other requiring new construction.
As we all work to reduce our carbon footprint and the associated effects of global warming, we must go beyond increasing a building’s energy efficiency and minimizing fossil fuel use. Construction itself, include manufacturing, mining, transportation, and ultimately the maintenance and disposal of building materials, also emits greenhouse gases. This category of emission is referred to as embodied carbon and accounts for 13% of overall greenhouse gas emissions.
In some cases, renovating rather than building new can reduce the amount of embodied carbon used on a project. Understanding embodied carbon impacts when considering whether to build new or renovate should be a key component of any school design project. As a design progresses, the same type of analysis also can be used to help understand which materials to select to further reduce a building’s embodied carbon.”