Friday, November 13, 2009

Green Footstep

The Green Footstep is a new carbon calculator from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

I used the simple version and plugged in a project that is currently in design development. In this version, you enter the region, lot size, natural state of lot, building type (for example, single family residence) and building size. The advanced version allows for more detail.
After this is entered, you come to "Design Decisions," which allows you to set targets for your project. A chart allows you to see how adding, changing or taking away certain elements increases the project's "Positive Footprint" or "Carbon Debt."

You can adjust the size and lifespan of the building. This site is already developed with out buildings and an existing cabin, but with adding the new residence native vegetation still covers about 41% of the site. This "on site carbon storage" decreases the carbon debt of the project. No new trees will likely be planted as the proposed footprint is in a clearing, but this would also help our on site storage. In their model, planting trees does not decrease the carbon debt, only increases the positive footprint.

It is very helpful to watch the animation on the carbon chart change as the elements are adjusted. However, this is largely intuitive. Currently, we don't concentrate on exact carbon footprint with our clients. To do this would involve a timely and costly analysis of life cycle costs, embodied energy, miles traveled, etc of all materials used. We mostly rely on accuracy of manufacturer's claims on green products, sourcing materials as locally as possible, current knowledge about green products, and in general creating smart designs while still giving our clients what they want.

We strive to create a long "expected building lifespan," which is a way on the Green Footstep calculator of reducing your footprint, accomplished by creating a space which is appropriate, adaptable, durable, and most of all, enjoyable.

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