Developing comprehensive understanding of the quantity of carbon emissions that could be attributed to the construction and operation of the block can only be done without worrying too much about boundaries and not being afraid of . While we knew this could produce a big, scary number, our interests favor truth in accounting over marketability.

Low2No carbon mitigation plan
Low2No carbon mitigation plan

Honest Accounting: walking our talk

Carbon mitigation has been a goal of many urban development projects around the world, not just Low2No. But the measurement of carbon has hardly been consistent across projects. Some carefully draw the "carbon boundary" around the day-to-day operations of the building. Others have included embodied carbon, but the calculation methodology also varies greatly—some calculate carbon from material volumes while others will include transportation of the material from the factory to the site.

An honest accounting of carbon is a methodology for measuring the project's carbon emissions from the beginning of the design process with the ambition to reduce carbon emissions in all operations, construction and use. This allows us to use carbon as a guiding decision making tool throughout design and implementation rather than only a way to measure what has been done once the block is occupied.

To manage carbon and energy-related decision making at the project level, we created a two tier ability and temporal framework by splitting Low from 2No:

Low measures have an impact that would be immediate both in terms of cost and carbon. They represent the minimum necessary to reduce carbon emission of the block below business as usual levels.2No measures unfold over time, either with new investments or projected changes in market or regulatory externalities.

2No measures represent a significant investment beyond what is necessary to create a low carbon block in materials and technologies that may not yet be market tested in Finland.

Carbon footprint of the Low2No block
Carbon footprint of the Low2No block

The Carbon Protocol: operationalizing honest accounting

The Carbon accounting protocol defines the scope and boundaries of carbon emissions inventories (carbon footprint) for our project and is based on the following key ideas:

Carbon accounting provides a common currency to evaluate efficiency measures and trade offs between both demand and supply of energy and materials.

The carbon protocol will include business as usual (BAU) baseline data and emissions factors for fuels, energy, and materials (in the Finnish context) as look-up tables in future project publications that will support ease-of-use by other developers.

The carbon protocol aligns with the classifications (direct, indirect, and other indirect emissions) and calculation methodologies of the leading internationally-recognized protocols.This approach will support benchmarking against development projects reporting in other GHG programmes.

BAU data for Jätkäsaari, Helsinki, and Finland, will include energy grid mix, energy use, performance of building stock, transportation habits, water and waste management data, and consumption of food and goods, as well as embodied carbon of common materials in Finnish context.

Embodied carbon is measured as CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents) and follows the PAS 2050:2008 and/or WRI protocol approaches, as appropriate, for building materials, food, and goods consumed. Embodied carbon in materials should include in-service and end of life considerations for materials requiring replacement/disposal within the 100-year life cycle assessment time frame.

Materiality threshold allows for a clear focus on the largest emissions sources, while minimizing the burden associated with minor sources, to optimize effectiveness of overall emissions reductions efforts. Additionally, the protocol provides a typical emission profile by sector, and by scope, based on local data to guide reduction efforts.

Forecasted BAU emissions over the life span of the development project will include likely reductions from planned regulatory or technical interventions. The carbon protocol recognizes that these default factors may not be precise for every project, but they allow for replicability and ease-of-use across future projects. 

Last edited on September 30th, 2011