Getting to Zero: Introducing ZeroGuide, NBBJ’s New Carbon Estimation Tool
As the impact of climate change continues to grow—from increased drought and warmer oceans to more severe storms—it is essential we take concrete steps to reduce carbon emissions, especially in the built environment. Yet despite advances in technology, materials, policies, standards and corporate commitments, carbon reduction is incredibly difficult and requires deep expertise, something that many organizations don’t have access to.
To support our mission of reducing emissions in our work and by sharing resources with our industry, today, we launch ZeroGuide. ZeroGuide is an open-access carbon estimation program available at no cost to our clients and fellow architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals.
It gives an overall visualization of how key decisions made at the early stages of design can impact a project’s total carbon use by providing real-time feedback. Through a series of prompts, users can estimate carbon emissions on all aspects of their projects. Using this knowledge to guide decisions, teams can test design options and gain a greater understanding of where a building performs well or could be refined to meet or exceed sustainability standards.
ZeroGuide also extends our firm’s leadership in championing carbon reduction, including being one of the only architecture firms to be named CarbonNeutral by Natural Capital Partners. We have also signed the 2030 Challenge, the 1.5⁰c COP26 Communique and the Amazon Climate Pledge.
Unlike other tools, ZeroGuide estimates carbon impact across three categories to provide a comprehensive overview. These include:
- Embodied carbon: building materials and construction techniques
- Operational carbon: building operations and upkeep
- Transportation carbon: location and commuting
Since being launched internally, we have utilized ZeroGuide to reduce emissions on some of our most ambitious projects. For instance, one organization engaged our team to design a net zero carbon building. We used ZeroGuide to help the client understand their complete carbon impact. In addition to operational carbon, we incorporated embodied carbon and transportation carbon to develop their “path to zero” over the next 50 years. To create intuitive data, the tool compared the client’s impact to acres of forests, helping them understand their magnitude of impact more clearly. By using ZeroGuide, we helped guide our client to a solution that reduced life cycle carbon by 76%, which is equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 3,800 acres of forest (roughly the size of 4.5 Central Parks) over ten years.
As ZeroGuide utilizes carbon accounting, it allows us to quantify the impact of energy, material consumption and reuse as a single digestible metric. With this metric, we arm the AEC industry and clients with an accessible, comprehensive resource to drive sustainable conversations early in the process. This allows us to make educated choices, create a spark for the deeper creative design process, and advance our commitment to design for integration.