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Eli Honig
Architecture Student
Asked a question 2 years ago

Given how important embodied carbon is, doesn't Passive House kind of miss the point?

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Zachary SemkeModerator
Director, Passive House Accelerator

Haha - provocative! From my perspective the whole embodied carbon versus operational carbon question is classic "yes-and", not "either-or". The rising awareness and interest in reducing the upfront carbon of construction is really important if we're going to address the impact of buildings on climate change. But we can't "throw the baby out with the bathwater" in our excitement about embodied carbon. All pathways to meet our Paris commitments require big gains in energy efficiency, and that's what Passive House accomplishes so well. The reality is that by designing smart, we can reduce embodied carbon and operational carbon at the same time. That's good news, because we don't have the luxury of choosing one over the other. Here's a Passive House Accelerator article exploring these themes: https://passivehouseaccelerator.com/articles/does-passive-house-amplify-our-embodied-carbon-decisions61

Tim Eian
CPHD at TE Studio and Climate Action Activist

Eli,

That is a great question: Generally, operational carbon far outweighs embodied carbon. It makes of course perfect sense to carefully consider construction materials but generally, the added insulation for a Passive House for instance more than makes up for it's embodied footprint over the life of the building (actually most often within just the first couple of years of operation). Therefore, this really is not a big concern. This was also considered when the PH targets were set. It therefore does not make sense to go well beyond Passive House targets to achieve and retain a sweet spot. 

Wolfgang Feist alluded to this in his recent webinar "Can we still solve the problem of climate protection?". Also, Rolf Jacobson from the University of MN posted findings from his thesis on PH Accelerator to help with this discussion. 

https://community.passivehouseaccelerator.com/question/are-there-good-links-papers-to-the-embodied-carbon-of-foam-vs-non-foam-envelopes-5eb34efc84ef601906d8e075?answerId=5ebeee2242ce89703c6b97f030