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Nelson receives carbon-friendly building design award

Commitment to Change award recognizes city’s leadership in advising builders on embodied carbon
Natalie Douglas, climate resilience planner at the City of Nelson (left), receives the Commitment to Change Award from Caroline Butchart of the Zero Emissions Building Exchange, and George Heyman, B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Photo: Submitted

The City of Nelson has received an award for excellence in climate-friendly building design.

The inaugural Commitment to Change award, given by the Carbon Leadership Forum of B.C., recognizes the work the city has done on embodied carbon.

“They have led the way for other, larger municipalities by commissioning a benchmarking report and by offering low-carbon home consultations to builders and designers,” states the awards website.

Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the extraction and manufacturing of building materials such as concrete, insulation and steel. This carbon adds significantly to the carbon footprint of a building even before its actual construction.

The work that earned the city the award is the completion of significant local research into embodied carbon, which they then published as an emissions guide that can be read at The research for the guide was funded by FortisBC.

The project analyzed the most significant sources of embodied carbon in housing construction in the West Kootenay, and provides advice on how to reduce material carbon emissions associated with a variety of materials, the most significant being concrete (35.5 per cent of emissions), insulation (15.3 per cent), cladding (12.5 per cent), and interior surfaces (12.2 per cent).

So far, governments and builders have focused on improving energy efficiency in new and existing buildings, but are still grappling with how to reduce embodied carbon.

The work has generated a lot of interest nationwide, says Cecilia Jaques, the city’s senior climate and energy strategist.

“We are, frankly, miles ahead,” she said. “There’s still many municipalities that don’t have embodied carbon on their radar yet.”

Jaques said Natalie Douglas, who developed and supervised the research project, regularly gets inquiries from other municipalities across the country, and Douglas has been invited onto a number of advisory boards.

Their work was supported by an advisory group consisting of Nelson area builders, engineers, architects.

Douglas often meets with individual builders or homeowners who are looking for ways to reduce embodied carbon and more generally to explore their energy efficiency options.

Nelson’s climate plan Nelson Next names the reduction of embodied carbon in buildings as a priority.


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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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