Carbon Footprint Solutions

GHG Emissions Reduction Audit Checklist for Building Owners

Buildings account for about 40% of global CO2 emissions, so it’s no wonder why so much focus goes toward green building systems and reduced emissions from corporate structures. Reducing this structural carbon footprint can help counter climate change and push us toward the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and other climate action pacts. 

To help you plan and work toward lowering emissions from corporate buildings, you can look to a GHG emissions reduction audit checklist for building owners. These audit checklists and GHG inventory management can all help you reach your carbon emissions goals. 

Continue reading for more about these audits and the actions you can take to reduce your building’s emissions. 

How Do You Reduce GHG in Buildings?

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) in buildings starts when construction begins and continues throughout the building’s lifespan. Let’s review how to reduce emissions in both stages to minimize a building’s environmental impact. 

GHG Emissions Reduction Audit Checklist for Building Owners During Construction

Starting on the right foot regarding GHG emissions reductions for building owners begins at the construction phase. Of course, none of this will apply if we’re talking about an existing building. However, if you’re constructing a new building, these tips can help lower the carbon footprint of erecting a new building. 

Reuse Old Buildings

Old Buildings Recycle Rennovate to Control Emissionssource

Instead of commissioning a new building, you can reduce emissions by reusing an old building. In fact, by doing this, you can save 50% to 75% of the embodied carbon emissions — the emissions associated with the materials and construction process — relative to new construction 

So, when considering a new building, think to yourself, “Is there an existing building we can renovate to fit our needs?” If so, you can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by rehabilitating the old building. Plus, you can use some of the character in older commercial buildings to your advantage in the design phase. 

Remember, that when reusing older buildings, you’ll likely have some extra work for efficiency improvements, but the emissions savings will easily offset that need. 

Use Low-Carbon Concrete

Concrete production isn’t known for its GHG emissions, but its sheer weight and the amount that goes into a new building make it the most significant embodied carbon source in many projects. In fact, cement accounts for a whopping 7% of all global emissions and 50% to 85% of the embodied carbon in a building project. 

You can reduce your building’s carbon footprint by opting for lower-emission concrete, such as those with fly ash, slag, or calcined clays. You can even opt for lower-strength concrete where it makes sense. 

Limit Carbon-Heavy Materials

Materials with big carbon footprints, such as metals, plastic, and foam, can be a part of the construction process but seek low-carbon alternatives where possible to help with the decarbonization of your project. 

So, consider a wooden instead of a steel structure to reach your building’s GMG emissions reduction goals. Or maybe opt for wooden siding instead of vinyl. 

Reuse Materials

During the construction or renovation process, don’t immediately scrap all the old materials. Many of those materials, such as metal, bricks, concrete, and wood, are reusable. And each item you reuse directly reduces your project’s emission factors. Plus, it’s a more cost-effective way to build. 

Focus on Recycled Materials

Recycled materials can help greatly lower the GHG emissions in your building or renovation project. For example, new steel can have five times the carbon footprint of recycled steel. On top of lowering your carbon footprint, recycled materials are often less expensive than new materials. 

Minimize Finished Materials

Finishings like vinyl flooring or carpeting add to the carbon footprint of your project. Instead of going with these finishings, choose materials that don’t need finishings, such as polished concrete for the floors. 

GHG Emissions Reduction Audit Checklist for Building Owners After Construction

After construction, you are still responsible for keeping the ongoing building emissions as low as possible, whether through improved energy efficiency, reduced waste, or improved sustainability. Let’s review some action plans building owners can take to ensure they improve their energy conservation and the building’s ongoing GMG emissions remain low. 

Update Heating and Cooling

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) make up 40% to 60% of all building carbon emissions, so this area is ripe for cutting. First, ensure you have an efficient system installed, such as some of the newer passive heating and cooling setups.  

It’s also a good idea to have a programmable system. You can program it to a warmer setting during off-hours and a comfortable setting during occupancy hours.  

Also, most buildings have outdoor air ventilation to keep the inside fresh, but the issue is this system runs constantly and always needs to be heated or cooled. You can counter this by installing air-quality sensors that detect when ventilation is necessary and activate this system only when needed. 

This will help reduce your energy consumption, lower overall energy costs, and shrink your building’s footprint. 

Perform Lighting Upgrades

Lighting Upgrades Lights on Ceiling of Warehousesource

Up to 40% of a commercial building’s energy consumption goes toward lighting, making this another prime target for reducing building emissions and adding in some cost savings 

Some ways to immediately lower the carbon footprint of your lighting is to install smart lights that only turn on when an area is in use and to replace all inefficient incandescent lights with more eco-friendly LED lighting. You can also add some daylighting to certain areas of the building, taking advantage of the greenest of all lights — the sun. 

Install Renewable Energy

Offset some or all of your buildings’ energy use by installing renewable energy, such as solar panels. These energy efficiency measures may have significant upfront expenses, but federal and local government incentives and overall electricity savings can help make up for this cost. 

By installing green appliances, you can lower energy consumption and increase energy savings. For example, you can replace old and inefficient boilers and water heaters with more efficient solar water heaters to lower electricity or natural gas usage when generating hot water. You can even swap old hard-wired ventilation fans with solar-powered ones to improve energy performance. 

Reduce Water Waste

Sustainable water use can also go a long way in reducing your environmental impact and cutting operational costs. Some ways to help lower water use and waste include retrofitting low-flow water fixtures, reclaiming water systems for non-potable water recycling, and collecting rainwater for use in on-site irrigation and decorative water features. 

How Do You Conduct a GHG Inventory?

First, what is a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is “a list of emission sources and the associated emissions quantified using standardized methods.” 

The EPA outlines the GHG inventory development process in four steps: scope and plan, collect and quantify data, create a GHG inventory management plan, and set targets, track, and report. Let’s review these four steps in more detail. 

Step 1: Scope and Plan

To conduct a GHG inventory, you start by reviewing the organization’s GHG accounting methods and how it reports on these emissions. The organization and its stakeholders must then determine the organization’s emissions boundaries, select a base year to start from, and consider bringing in a third party to verify the improvements. 

Step 2: Collect and Quantify Data

In the second step, you’ll identify all the GHG data required and the preferred data-collection methods. Then, you’ll develop procedures, tools, and guidance that adhere to these requirements. After that, gather and review all the facility data, such as electricity and natural gas consumption from the baseline year you chose, and use estimation to fill in any data gaps. From there, you can calculate your emissions. 

Step 3: Create a GHG Inventory Management Plan

Next, you‘ll create formal data collection procedures and document processes in the inventory management plan. This will include all institutional, managerial, and technical arrangements made for data collection, inventory preparation, and implementation of steps to manage inventory quality. 

This management system ensures a systematic process is in place to help prevent and correct errors and identify where investments net the greatest improvements in inventory quality. However, this system’s main focus is to ensure the credibility of the organization’s GHG inventory data using five key GHG accounting principles, which we’ll cover later. 

Overall, your inventory management plan will have seven key steps: 

  1. Create an inventory quality team. 
  2. Create a quality management plan. 
  3. Perform generic quality tests. 
  4. Perform source-specific quality tests. 
  5. Review final inventory estimates and reports. 
  6. Institutionalize formal feedback loops. 
  7. Report, document, and archive data. 

Step 4: Set Targets, Track, and Report

With the process in place, it’s now time to set your building-emissions-reduction targets relative to the base year you selected and, if you like, bring in a third party to verify your targets are attainable and helpful. You’ll then report all data as needed, publish a public GHG target report, and track your progress toward effective energy management and emissions reductions. 

What Is the Standard for GHG Accounting?

Greenhouse gas emissions accounting and reporting must be based on five key principles. The principles are as follows: 

  1. Relevance: The GHG inventory must appropriately reflect the company’s GHG emissions and serve internal and external users’ decision-making needs. 
  2. Completeness: The organization must account for and report all sources of GHG emissions and activities within the chosen boundaries. It must also disclose and justify any GHG emissions it excluded. 
  3. Consistency: An organization’s methodologies must remain consistent to allow accurate and meaningful GHG emission comparisons. 
  4. Transparency: Address all relevant issues factually and coherently using a clear audit trail. If relevant assumptions are used, the organization must disclose them and make appropriate references. 
  5. Accuracy: Ensure the GHG emissions quantification is neither over nor under the actual emissions and that uncertainties are reduced as much as possible. The organization must also ensure sufficient accuracy so users can decide based on the reported information’s integrity. 

How Do You Measure GHG Emissions in a Building?

Emissions from a building can come in all three scopes: scope one, scope two, and scope three. When calculating GHG emissions from a building, you must consider all three scopes, which can make it tricky. 

Scope one emissions are relatively simple to track, as these are direct GHG emissions, such as burning fossil fuels. To calculate GHG emissions in this scope, review resource consumption on utility bills, and use a calculator to determine the GHG emissions that amount of consumption made. 

Scope two emissions are indirect GHG emissions that stem from the building’s energy usage from the electrical grid. So, if your company’s electricity comes from a coal-fired plant, this would include your building’s share of that plant’s emissions based on your energy consumption 

You can estimate your scope two emissions using a GHG emissions calculator and the building information, such as square feet. Keep in mind, getting a precise number is generally not possible because many power grids include multiple energy sources, including coal, natural gas, nuclear, and solar. 

Finally, scope three emissions include GHG emissions from all other sources, including the supply chain and other business operations that are not within the organization’s control. In terms of a building, this can include all embodied carbon too. 

Scope three emissions are difficult to track and are generally not in the organization’s control, for this reason, organizations normally aren’t required to report on them. However, monitoring, understanding, and reducing scope three emissions can help you create a green building. 

Help Fight Global Warming by Auditing and Reducing Your Building’s GHG Emissions

GHG Emissions Concern Image of New Corporate Buildingsource

Global warming and climate change are critical, and it’s time for everyone to chip in and do their part. This includes building owners reducing their buildings’ carbon footprints. Fortunately, GHG emissions reduction audit checklists for building owners can help in this process by giving you firm steps to follow and the data you need to successfully reduce your structural carbon footprint. 

If you’re not yet ready to take on the task of reducing building emissions or already have and want to further decrease your corporate carbon footprint, we have options for you at Terrapass. Check out our voluntary carbon credits, and see how they can help offset any remaining corporate emissions, helping you attain or get closer to being a net-zero carbon emitter. 

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The post GHG Emissions Reduction Audit Checklist for Building Owners appeared first on Terrapass.

By: Daniel Ho
Title: GHG Emissions Reduction Audit Checklist for Building Owners
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Published Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2023 17:03:21 +0000

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