greenhouse gas emissions


so, it's important to think about how to reduce GHG emissions in construction. But probably not actually useful. Cement production would be in the "industry" category below. This includes all greenhouse gasses, which is important because CO2 is only about 2/3 of the problem.

and within only CO2 here is cement:

i can't find any information on what percentage of cement is used for above-grade architectural construction (versus roads, dams, foundations, tunnels, etc) but i bet it's not more than half.

So when we talk about eliminating concrete from architecture, we're splitting hairs over a percent here or there. Not gonna help.

We should be pushing cement manufacturers to develop lower emissions processes (there is work on this) - but just cutting it out from the visible part of architecture is mere greenwashing.

Aug 23, 19 12:08 pm

"We should be pushing cement manufacturers to develop lower emissions processes (there is work on this) - but just cutting it out from the visible part of architecture is mere greenwashing"

Agreed.  My frustration as a forensic architect is watching roll-off after roll off of damaged materials leaving the site and flatbeds rolling in new materials every single day.  It isn't just the scrap and transport of all the repair scope either. It's multiple cars filled with workers, the other materials I have to demolish just to get to the damaged elements, etc.   In my head, the carbon emissions of replacing materials regularly exceeds the pollution created by materials which are tolerant of Mother Nature's weapons of choice; Climate.  And those events are becoming more frequent.

I and this side of the industry, knows we can track most storms and find damage... that is how it will work as long as the construction industry continues to use products and designs that simply can't handle volumes of moisture, hail, or snow.  And on the flip side, 'good-intention' codes to address Mother Nature tend to create a lot of other problems like condensation from the interior side because structures can't dryout anymore.

So I get frustrated knowing IF things were installed and specificied correctly, and IF durability had been a consideration... I wouldn't see what I see almost daily.  I don't see rotting concrete, masonry, or steel... It's not to say wood is bad... its just that it doesn't handle mother nature well at all and isn't going to tolerate many design / installation / specification errors.  

So I see this as two fights.  One is to reduce the impact in the manufacture and transport of construction products as well as the consumption.  The other is to design and select materials appropriate to handle the current and future climate so you don't become a large consumer just to keep the building from falling apart. (and you could add to those fights land planning stuff like sprawl, high density, transportation, etc.)... Out of this though, as architects, we can control the products that go into our designs and how well the building can perform both from a durability standpoint and consumption of energy/materials necessary for its lifespan.  It is all a balance and finding where that balance point is.  

Aug 23, 19 5:24 pm
Non Sequitur

I’ve been wanted to toss something into this all day but can’t pull myself apart for the dumpster fire(s) I’m actually paid to address. 

My quick 2¢ on this is that swapping on building material for another which on paper might be less harmful is not going to be a straight substitution. From Donna’s suggestion on TC, wood  just does not scale well past a reasonably small-medium project. 

I wonder what the CO2 output of that newfangled wood high rise stuff is and where does it rank vs concrete and steel on a material use equivalency chart. 

Aug 23, 19 5:30 pm

Focus on the small problems and ignore the big ones. That always works.

Aug 23, 19 6:47 pm
Non Sequitur

Anyone blaming video games for this too now?

liberty bell

I’m running late for this morning ‘s Exhibit Columbus panel presentations but here is a concrete project I’ll see more of later this afternoon. Chris Battaglia of BSU has built a concrete shell using concrete that he says can be ground up and reused again because it doesn’t contain large aggregate. And by the way (he mentioned this during the panel discussion last night that I moderated) the earth is running out of sand, too.

Aug 24, 19 9:46 am

Running out of the super-special sand for volleyball courts does not have any relevance to the availability of sand as aggregate for concrete.

liberty bell

I hate that link is to Forbes, but the author is one of my favorite science writers.

liberty bell

Also per the response on TC that mass timber can’t be used for 50 story towers: who says we should necessarily be building 50 story towers in this anthropocenic time anyway?

Aug 24, 19 9:50 am

isn't taller better? Spreading out covers more land and means less BMPs.

liberty bell

Tall has its place. But tall has its drawbacks too. The built world absolutely should not be one size fits all.

Non Sequitur

That's what she said! Hey ho!.... oh wait


It's NOT one size fits all right now. There are buildings from one story to 100+ stories. What's your point?

My point is that mass timber's inappropriateness for super tall towers isn't relevant when we're talking about using it for buildings other than super tall towers.

Non Sequitur

Donna, is there a commercial scale where mass timber becomes a suitable alternative? Right now, can’t really gauge it since it’s all one-off projects and... we must factor in the time to educate the folks writing our code books. The one mass timber residence I know of in Vancouver still needed quad layers of gypsum to the mass timber columns to meet fire codes. Certainly all that work can’t be more sustainable than a simple concrete column, no?


If CO2 is so harmful why do Hillary, Al Gore, and Obama, not to mention the Democrat presidential candidates, practically live in their carbon spewing corporate jets? If you want to do something useful go plant a tree. I did (oak and maple).

Aug 24, 19 11:40 am
liberty bell


Aug 24, 19 1:23 pm

If you can't see the absurdity of these people flying corporate jets to 'climate change' conferences I really don't know what to say. It is going to be too much of a burden for them to fly first-class with the airlines? Do as I say, not as I do?


Yup. This is why the whole green thing never goes anywhere. The "solutions" are either unpalatable (mass transit, tiny apartments, no air conditioning), wildly unrealistic (Green New Deal, etc.) or absurd (eliminate airplanes in ten years, veganism, etc.). It's mostly just a lot of virtue signaling. And what are we going to do if China, India, Brazil and the rest of the developing world isn't willing to go along. All the sacrifices here will be for nothing.

Non Sequitur

But now plastic straws are hidden behind lock and key like cigarettes (at least where I am). That must count for something right?


Only right wingers and libertarians create CO2.

Non Sequitur

JLA, Grandi once said: “everybody poops”. This is true for all political labels but the wankers you mention just poop more frequently and with greater abandon.

Non Sequitur

That’s Gandhi, not grandi. Stupid phone.


Grandi was Gandhi’s grandfather.

Volunteer: I see the absurdity of people flying private jets to climate conferences. I also see that it's not only right-wingers criticizing them, but left-wingers too.

So are you saying that I should stop worrying about being frugal in my own energy consumption because nothing at all can ever be done to make anything in the world even a little bit better all because Leo DiCaprio flies a jet?

Aug 24, 19 3:31 pm

Nope, I am just saying leaders should lead from the front. Instead you have a bunch of celebrities advocating lifestyle changes for everybody else that they have no intention of adopting themselves.




Bette Midler has a bunch of huge homes, probably flys around the world...but as long as she foams at the mouth as she feverishly celebrates the death of boogie man Koch her co2 level becomes net zero. whole lot of projecting going on.

liberty bell

It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it?

You haven’t blocked those two yet? It's like forcing yourself to watch bad tv. You can change the channel or turn it off, but talking back to it is a complete waste of time.


Blocks dissenting opinions...says communism will be different this time round.

liberty bell

Mikes I have jlx blocked. I like hearing what Volunteer has to say even tho I almost always disagree.

liberty bell

Ugh *
Miles* sorry. Damn autocorrect.

Autocorrect is an oxymoron.


America has a history of using sanctimony and rigid adherence to arbitrary rules to deal with difficult problems (cf: prohibition, war on drugs, sanctions themselves) - none of which succeeded in their goals.

i worry once we get the ball rolling on developing a cultural concern for sustainability we will see a similar rigid approach to classifying individual behaviors as contributing to or undermining sustainability. which will lead to much fuss but not actually deal with the underlying problems of energy sourcing for electricity, industry, and transportation. That is all there is. Fix that single thing (energy) and everything else works out.

singling out the individual act isn't helpful. it's a cumulative impact of so many inconsequential acts, and many justifiable adaptations to involuntary circumstances that lead people to generate GHG emissions. we're not going to fix the problem by proscribing specific activities because everyone leads lives that generate excessive GHGE. You have no choice!

Consider: the richest family in Europe in 1700 generated less net emissions than a typical single individual living just above poverty in America today. The only fuel was wood, which is net zero since it grows back. So this shouldn't be confused as a class issue or moralistic issue - it's a technical and systematic problem.

i don't think we will see a clear solution in our lifetime. just progress and possibilities. the impact on human paradigms about society and civilization will be huge, comparable to the european enlightenment.

what we as architects will have the chance to do and really can help will be adaptation. warming is gradual, sea level rise even slower. plenty of time to rebuild and retrofit our cities to work.

perhaps there will be some developments in energy that make large scale desalination practical enough to fully irrigate major deserts. imagine growing massive temperate forests in the uninhabited interiors of australia and china - that could really shift the co2 balance back towards what we want.

we should be thinking on these scales and not lose ourselves in quibbles about the relative merits of various insulation systems or structural materials, which are just such small contributors with limited scalability.

i'm actually excited about it. there is so much to learn about how the world literally works.

Aug 25, 19 10:52 am

+++ This is likely not the first time an intelligent species came to this threshold. It’s likly a natural phase between type 0 and type 1 civilizations. Some make it, others don’t.


how close do you think we are to a dyson sphere?

A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat ... [Men in Black]

I'm still trying to figure out which person he was talking about.


Probably like 1000 years

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