Carbon Dioxide

Carbon Neutral Shipping

Did you know that UPS can calculate the carbon footprint of of your shipment, so you can buy carbon offsets to neutralize the environmental impact of your shipping?

TRI-KES, recently implemented a program to do just that with 31,000 sample shipments.  (see their website)  They are a distributor of interior finishes, so samples are a big deal.  They claim to be the first company in the architecture and interior design industry to do this.

We hope there will be more.

Greenwash of Week - Brick Competition

If you promote the sustainability of a product, you should be willing to have the market scrutinize all aspects of your product's environmental performance. Unfortunately, this concept is lost on the organizers of the Second Annual BrickStainable Design Competition.

Their website declares:
"The focus of the BrickStainable Competition is to encourage people to think beyond all boundaries and “re-think” brick in the context of its material qualities and current construction technologies"
"...this Competition seeks to attract and promote new ideas in the manufacturing of, the application of, or the physical arrangement of ... masonry units that promote energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable building design."
And their goal is:
"to stimulate the local and international design community by challenging them with a competition seeking ideas, concepts and assemblies which hold the greatest potential for shifting paradigms for the masonry industry as they relate to energy efficiency and environmental regenerative building design...   Products with similar sustainable qualities as clay masonry have the potential to take us to carbon neutrality through integrative design. As this initiative continues to develop and we obtain support from other industries that believe in our vision, the built environment will move toward standards and practices that demand the use of all inherently sustainable materials."  (Emphasis added.)
These are grand and noble aspirations, and one can hope that architects apply their creative thinking towards creating more sustainable brick construction.

So where is the greenwash?

The fine print requires the use of "clay masonry units" in the design.  This eliminates the opportunity for designers to consider recent innovations -- such as fly ash brick -- that mitigate the carbon dioxide emissions associated with firing clay masonry.

If the clay brick industry wants to promote the sustainable qualities of their own products -- and there are many -- then that is well and good.  But please spare us the preaching about "thinking beyond all boundaries," "shifting paradigms," "new ideas in manufacturing, and the exploration of 'products with similar qualities as clay masonry.'"

Visualizing Carbon Impact

Many of us struggle to find ways to communicate the relative importance of our environmental message. This brick produces 85% less carbon dioxide during manufacture; great! Is that a lot? How big an impact does that make?

Information is Beautiful
has a great example today of one way to do this. We've heard a lot the past few days about Iceland's volcanic activity and the impact of more than 7,000 tons of ash on air travel, health, and marathon runners. Sounds like a massive environmental disaster! Then McCandless and Bartels showed us this:

Suddenly I have perspective, and a good argument to reduce air travel.

How do you tell your story visually? Give us links to your infographics in the comments.

Steel Industry Greenwash

The American Iron and Steel Institute and other steel industry groups fill their websites with statements about how much they have reduced their carbon dioxide emissions in recent years, and to brag about the research being done that may result in further reductions. These are notable claims. But they are also useless to the architect or builder trying to make informed decisions about building systems today. What is needed is clear information about the current CO2 emissions.