To become carbon neutral, we need to eliminate or offset the impact of both operating and embodied energy. In an average building today, operating energy accounts for 72% of the overall energy consumption. Strategies for reducing operating carbon include right-sizing, significantly reducing operating energy per square foot, gradually increasing onsite renewable energy production, and increasing flexibility for renewable procurement through electrification.
Embodied energy — the energy associated with building materials — accounts for the other 28%. Strategies for reducing embodied carbon include right-sizing, selecting low- and zero-impact materials, reusing buildings instead of engaging in new construction, and offsetting impact through net-positive production and/or increases in carbon sequestration (captured through absorption).
In Impact by Design 2020 we introduce Strategies for Climate Resilience: a collection of six major areas that have the greatest potential for positive climate impact in the coming years.