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California’s drive for low-carbon procurement

November 28, 2017 | Brent Trenga, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP | Kingspan Insulated Panels

What a beautiful way to start your morning; drinking fresh coffee and reading how the state of California just introduced the first law ever to address embodied carbon in building products.
 
Climate change is the fundamental design problem of our time; not education, not urban sprawl, not disease, not justice. The threat climate change poses is existential, and buildings are hugely complicit—even more so than the automobile. Buildings consume 40% of our energy annually, and they emit nearly half of the CO2, through greenfield development, cement production, and the burning of fossil fuels. CO2 is the chief agent of climate change, making buildings—and by association, the construction industry —profoundly responsible.
 
The COP 21 Paris Agreement sends a clear signal that the shift to a low-carbon economy is inevitable, and everyone must play their part. To facilitate this, we must embrace meaningful action on tackling climate change from the private sector and state governments.
 
Under the new ‘Buy Clean California’ law, state agencies are required to consider the embedded carbon emissions of building products such as steel, glass and insulation when contracting for state-funded infrastructure projects. Although a fantastic first step, why stop with just infrastructure projects? Every state-funded building has the opportunity to remake the built environment so that it drastically reduces CO2 footprint. We need to make embodied carbon count. A cubic yard of concrete (3,800 lbs.), generates 350 pounds of CO2 - that's a 15'x15'x15' cube of CO2.
 
In 2011, the Kingspan Group embarked on its own Net-Zero Energy initiative, committing to ensure that each of its 100+ facilities worldwide are Net-Zero Energy by the year 2020, with an interim target of achieving 50% by 2016. We entered in 2017 at 57% renewable energy.
 
Kingspan believes in walking the talk. Our NZE program, simply put, is an effort to prove that energy efficiency makes commercial sense. By reducing our own energy footprint, the high- performance building products we manufacture have a lower embedded carbon footprint.
 
How can it be done? The Trias Energetica gives us three guiding principles.
 
Save More.  Kingspan has the understanding and capability to create extremely thermally-efficient buildings. This expertise has been applied at every opportunity, both to improve existing constructions and to inform the design of new ones. In addition, energy efficiency saving opportunities in all aspects of our energy use are being investigated and implemented where possible.
 
Generate through renewable sources. A wide range of different renewable technologies have been used in different combinations, to meet the requirements of individual sites. Rooftop solar panels, solar hot water, biomass and wind are just some of the projects that have been completed or are currently underway on our sites. 
 
Supply any remaining demand through responsible sources. Once every avenue has been exhausted to insulate buildings, reduce demand, and generate on site, the final step in the process is to procure renewable energy to achieve 100% Net Zero Energy. Elsewhere, the International Renewable Energy Certificate Standard (I-REC) and alternative opportunities, will be sought to track the supply both renewable electric & green (bio) gas.

Learn more about our commitment to sustainability.