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EMBARC: Homebuilding materials in the GTHA have higher carbon emissions than 183,000 cars and trucks


New “EMBARC” study documents high greenhouse gas emissions from building materials in residential homes in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, makes recommendations to minimize problem. A new first-of-its-kind study documents the greenhouse gas emissions from building materials used to construct homes in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA). The results are substantial, revealing roughly 840,000 tonnes of carbon per year, equivalent to the emissions from more than 183,000 automobiles. “This study shows how important it is to combine energy efficiency practices in buildings with material emission calculations. Focusing on just one or the other isn’t going to get us to our crucial GHG goals," said Passive Buildings Canada President Kim Walton. Many green building certifications and codes have been developed to limit operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without considering the emissions from construction materials, largely due to a lack of awareness and data. National non-profit Passive Buildings Canada (PBC) received funding from The Atmospheric Fund and partnered with Builders for Climate Action (BfCA) to conduct the study, the first benchmarking study of its kind in the world.

The Emissions from Materials Benchmark Assessment of Residential Construction (EMBARC) study examined data from over 500 single detached, semi-detached and town houses built between 2017 and 2020 in the GTHA to provide decision makers – including policymakers, developers, home designers and builders, and homeowners - with insights about choices they can make to reduce GHG emissions in the homes they build, design and renovate. The study identifies materials and construction assemblies within each building that are responsible for the most emissions and identifies opportunities for significant reductions by comparing options for each material. The results will enable GTHA regulators to assess how different policy options might lead to large-scale material emission reductions to complement existing GHG reduction goals in the building sector.


“The EMBARC study does not only point out a problem, it also provides clear recommendations for how to minimize the problem. Unusual for a report on climate change, this study suggests that new homes could potentially become sites of negative emissions with atmospheric carbon stored in building materials outweighing all associated manufacturing emissions and providing a net reduction in atmospheric carbon,” Said Chris Magwood, co-founder of Builders for Climate Change. If the best available materials were used for future low-rise homes built in the GTHA, the homes would result in approximately 573,000 tonnes fewer emissions annually in the GTHA, a 68% deduction.


Download the report at: passivebuildings.ca/embarc