Friday, October 22, 2010

MIT's Sustainability Lab and Historic Boston Present a Carbon Calculator

In April, we blogged about a project of the 1772 Foundation and MIT’s newly formed Sustainability Lab to measure and compare the carbon outputs of new construction with historic rehabilitation. Historic Boston’s project at 65 Pleasant Street was the test case that was used to build a dynamic carbon impacts model in Excel that might be used by policy makers and green building planners going forward.

The purpose of the model was to compare the carbon impacts of preserving an existing building versus demolishing that structure in favor of building a new, highly efficient green building of the same size. Too often, energy efficiency is examined in the static context of energy consumption per year and the associated carbon impacts. Certainly a highly efficient, newly constructed building requires far less energy to operate than the 204 year old house at 65 Pleasant Street. However, energy consumption does not account for the myriad carbon impacts of sourcing, processing and assembling the raw materials necessary to create a new green building. This model allows users to examine buildings over time with a comprehensive view of not simply operations, but also construction and maintenance.

The webinar (linked in three sections below) explains more about the specific mechanics and potential adjustments that can be made to the model and whether it is truly greened to build new or preserve the old. The question remains, how can this tool be best applied to project planning and public policy? We’d enjoy your feedback, left in comments or directly via email (

MIT/HBI Carbon Calculator Webinar, Part 1
MIT/HBI Carbon Calculator Webinar, Part 2
MIT/HBI Carbon Calculator Webinar, Part 3

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