Over 70% of carbon emissions are associated with Philadelphia buildings, architect says

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Action News is counting down to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. So here are a couple of questions, what makes up Philadelphia's biggest carbon footprint and why should you care?

When we talk about carbon, we're talking about carbon dioxide or CO2. That's one of the greenhouse gases that absorbs radiation and prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere. That excess heat creates problems like disrupted weather patterns and higher temperatures.

You might think the biggest culprit of carbon emissions is transportation: trains, planes and automobiles. But that's not the case.

"Over 70% of our carbon emissions are associated with the buildings in Philadelphia," said Billie Faircloth.

Faircloth is an architect for Keiran Timberlake and her job is to make sure buildings are designed to be as green as possible.

Buildings emit carbon two ways: first through operational carbon.

"It's the carbon that's emitted during the operation of buildings," she said. "It's lights, electricity, heating, and air it's all of that."

Embodied carbon is emitted before you even move in. That's the emissions associated with the building materials manufacturing and using those materials, then throwing the rest away in landfills.

"So one of the best things we can do to lower embodied carbon is to re-use the buildings we already have," said Faircloth.

The building Keiran Timberlake is housed in is the old beer bottling facility for Ortlieb's beer.

"Another way to reduce our embodied carbon footprint is to consider the materials we use. Making sure when those materials are manufactured, they create as little waste as possible from start to finish," said Faircloth.

And thanks to Faircloth and Kerian Timberlake, there is an app for tackling embodied carbon. It's called Tally and allows architects, owners, and contractors to compare the carbon footprint of various design options and materials. It has more than 6,000 users worldwide.
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