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A new CEM (Carbon Footprint Metric) system for the built environment


Measuring a building’s greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, can be challenging. Yet, these metrics could provide the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry with valuable data that can ultimately modify the footprint of a facility.

This is why researchers at Colorado State University, www.sustainability.colostate.edu, Fort Collins, Colo., are working on developing a CEM (Carbon Footprint Metric) system designed specifically for the built environment.

The university was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation, www.nsf.gov, Arlington, Va., to develop measurement and assessment tools to provide carbon footprint metrics. These tools are also set to be integrated with existing architectural design software and building material databases.



The research will involve students and faculty in various departments throughout the two-year life of the grant. Emission sources include everything involved in producing and transporting building materials, building construction, building operation and maintenance, and activities involved in building turnover. Assessments will be done on a modular residential structure, a university classroom and laboratory facility, and an industrial building.

Once validated, the CFM system will enable design and construction professionals to evaluate and adjust building designs in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The ultimate goal is to develop a system that measures emissions for the entire building lifecycle, from design to decommissioning, says the project’s director Keith Paustian.

With the system, builders and contractors will be able to create an integrated design for a net-zero greenhouse-gas built environment.

Data is king in construction these days, giving companies the ability to improve processes throughout the project. Being armed with knowledge about the carbon footprint generated by a building throughout the lifecycle could give architects, engineers, contractors, and facility managers the knowledge they need to modify that carbon footprint.

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