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Calculating Your Building’s Carbon Footprint

October 2, 2012 | 0 comments

As more organizations are making carbon reduction goals, with the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality, facilities professionals are being tasked with measuring the impact of their buildings.

Commercial office buildings are the single largest consumers of energy in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So while it may seem like figuring out your building’s carbon footprint is confusing and time-consuming, the result is well worth the effort. Knowing where the majority of your GHG emissions are coming from will help you decide where to focus your carbon reduction efforts.

According to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol framework, there are three types of carbon emissions you should measure as part of your building’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory:

  1. Direct emissions (scope 1): Greenhouse gasses generated from sources owned or controlled by your company. (Emissions from generation of electricity, heat, or steam; emissions from physical or chemical processing; etc.)
  2. Indirect emissions (scope 2): GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity by your company. (For most commercial buildings, this category is the biggest component of a carbon footprint; it covers anything running on electricity in your facility.)
  3. Optional emissions (scope 3): Emissions generated in the wider economy as a result of your organization’s activities, such as taking a commercial flight for business or sending waste to landfill.

It’s best to treat carbon footprint calculation as a project. Start by forming a team, creating a schedule, and establishing deadlines for gathering data. Make sure to allow extra time for gathering the data that will come from other departments or organizations.

And don’t forget to include the items that are most frequently overlooked in the calculation process, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Vehicles
  • Less-common fuels like propane, kerosene, or acetylene
  • Back-up diesel generators
  • Refrigerants used in vehicles and facilities
  • Fire suppressants

Once you have your carbon footprint calculated, you can make decisions about the best ways to achieve noticeable reductions. Start by focusing on low-cost energy-efficiency solutions, controlling plug load, investing in green power, and establishing HVAC efficiency.

How does your carbon footprint compare to similar buildings in your region? Find out here.

Have you attempted to measure your building’s carbon footprint? Why or why not?


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