Embodied Carbon in Home Materials and Construction
What you need to know about this sneaky global warming accelerant.
“We know now that embodied carbon emissions can account for up to 75% of a building’s total emissions over its whole lifespan,” says ACAN’s Joe Giddings. – Fast Company
Wherever you call home, we are witnessing an increase in the severity of natural disasters. Fires, floods, and hurricanes are more frequent and more powerful. The culprit is operational and embodied carbon emissions. When we first started to understand the impact of greenhouse gases on our environment, we targeted the obvious offenders: fossil fuels and electricity. These operational carbons are significant, but its sneaky sibling ’embodied carbon’ can’t be ignored.
We must decarbonize the built environment. The built environment is the largest single emitter of greenhouse gasses globally. To slow the damage of GHG emissions, we need to reduce the embodied carbon in building materials and construction methods.
What is ’embodied carbon,’ and why do we need to be making immediate changes in building materials and design?
“Unlike operational carbon, which can be reduced during a building’s lifetime, embodied carbon is locked in as soon as a building is completed. It can never be recaptured.” – Blueprint for Better
Think of the materials used in your home’s construction, from your foundation’s concrete to the studs in your walls to the tiles on your roof. Embodied carbon is the sum of all the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the mining, logging, harvesting, and processing of these materials. Plus, the transportation to the job site and the method of construction used. It is all the carbon that is emitted before the building is occupied.
The embodied carbon emissions in constructing a new home are equal to about 20 years of operating emissions. “When looking at total greenhouse gas emissions for new buildings built over the next ten years — the critical period for action to address the global climate emergency — Architecture 2030 estimates that 80% will come from embodied emissions, so lowering embodied carbon emissions is now even more urgent than lowering operating emissions.” –AIA California
With this information in hand, a group of forward-thinking individuals came together to change the materials and building method.
BamCore. A decade in the making.
“BamCore presents an amazing opportunity for us, as a civilization, to do something good with the earth and the way we build for years to come.” – Zack Zimmerman | Director of Business Development
BamCore has developed a solution that reduces operational and embodied carbon in the built environment. This innovative technology replaces unsustainable wood stud framing with a stronger and more sustainable studless bamboo-based panelized wall system.
BamCore’s Prime Walls deliver a uniquely promising carbon footprint by reducing thermal bridging from wood studs. The studless wall system requires less operating energy. And, the materials promote direct carbon sequestration through the demand-driven expansion of timber bamboo planting. By changing the materials and building method, this solution directly impacts both operational and embodied carbon emissions.
The benefits of sustainably grown and harvested timber bamboo.
“Bamboo rapidly sequesters carbon in biomass and soil, taking it out of the air faster than almost any other plant, and can thrive on inhospitable degraded lands—the ideal place to put bamboo to work. Just a grass, bamboo has the compressive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel.” – drawdown
Bamboo is beneficial in soil erosion control, carbon sequestration, and restoration of degraded land. By increasing the demand for timber bamboo, we can convert overgrazed lands and other fringe areas into carbon-sequestering forests. This land conversion can contribute approximately 337 metric tons of permanent CO2 sequestration per hectare.
Why is bamboo so efficient at sequestrating CO2? Because it grows fast, up to three feet a day. The faster a plant grows, the more carbon dioxide it captures. One hectare of sustainably managed timber bamboo seizes on average as much as 1,625 more metric tonnes of CO2 than trees.
In the BamCore Cradle to Grave Analysis by Quantis, it was determined that: The expansion of timber bamboo planting, especially when converted from low carbon stock land such as grazing land, has the potential to play a significant role in carbon sequestration. But, does timber bamboo produce superior carbon capture and storage compared to wood? After extensive study, Quantis determined that timber bamboo provides five to six times the amount of CO2 removal than a similar wood project does.
The takeaway: Bamboo is a fast-growing resource that rapidly sequesters carbon and creates 35% more oxygen than a similar stand of trees. It can be grown sustainably on marginalized lands and protects against soil erosion. It is a strong, renewable building material.
Timber bamboo as a building material.
Likely you already know that bamboo has greater tensile strength than steel, and it withstands compression better than concrete. It is the ideal raw material for manufacturing BamCore walls. But, how do you fabricate round hollow bamboo poles sustainably into a prime wall? Good question. BamCore preserves the bamboo’s integrity by using full-length strips of bamboo in their panelized wall system. The patented process doesn’t require water, steam, chemicals, or formaldehyde to manufacture the walls. This means less waste.
The innovative studless wall system combines reduced energy consumption and carbon sequestration in the built environment. By harnessing the strength of highly renewable timber bamboo, BamCore Walls can eliminate most of the thermal bridging found in conventional stud-based framing. The sustainability consulting firm Quantis has estimated that the BamCore Wall System can reduce 125 metric tons of CO2 over a home’s 70-year life span.
But the benefits don’t end there. The BamCore Prime Wall system is thermally superior, reduces air leakage, and has a lower mold risk than conventional walls. This combination of attributes generates exceptional operating performance, lowering costs and reducing carbon. A simulation by PassivScience showed that single-family homeowners could save an average of $1,850 annually in lower heating and cooling bills with BamCore Prime Walls.
The takeaway: Buildings constructed with BamCore Prime Walls have lower embodied and operating energy, resulting in an unmatched low combined carbon footprint with superior operating performance.
The BamCore method.
Make it fast. We are racing the housing and climate crisis clock. But, lowering the embodied carbon footprint alone is not enough to drive immediate change in the built environment. We need a fast and easy product to install that also captures operating advantages to become a viable solution. BamCore’s Studless Prime Wall System fits this need. It is extremely fast to assemble; it comes pre-cut and makes the installation of electrical and plumbing a breeze, saving you time, labor, and money.
Make it easy. The BamCore Wall System is fully customizable. It arrives at the job site with every window, door, switch, and outlet already cut-out to millimeter accuracy. Panels are sequentially numbered and don’t require any heavy equipment to install. A crew of three can easily and quickly install the Prime Wall, so labor shortage doesn’t interfere with your timeline.
Make it green. By using nature’s strongest structural fiber, timber bamboo, the BamCore Prime Wall system often eliminates the need for drywall, jack and king studs, OSB, rigid foam installation, and furring strips. The need for fewer materials means less embodied carbon and less waste.
The takeaway: The BamCore solution reduces operational and embodied carbon in the built environment. Also, by using innovative technology to integrate design, bid, and build, BamCore reduces construction time, job site waste and error, labor, and cost.
BamCore is using nature’s strongest and fastest-growing structural fiber—timber bamboo—to deliver a customized, code-compliant wall system that is redefining the low-rise built environment. Our patented Prime Wall system is a bamboo-based stud-less wall that is stronger, greener, thermally superior, healthier, safer, quieter, and more quickly installed than any other framing solution available today.