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Low-Carbon Building Tool, Materials Help Developers Cut Costs, Emissions

CLTA new tool and building materials can help developers and building owners cut costs and carbon footprints.

The Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Tool automatically detects carbon emission hot-spots in the earliest stages of project development — for example, concrete-intensive areas — by flagging them on a computer dashboard.

UK engineering firm Costain, which developed the tool in partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s Business School and funding from Volvo Construction, says it is the first program of its type.

The open-source plug-in works with all industry standard project planning tools and enables project managers to make decisions about how to minimize the amount of carbon they generate.

Considering constructed objects account for 25 percent to 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, this tool could prove beneficial in helping builders and architects comply with emissions laws.

A couple other tools — more specifically, green building materials — are showing similar promise.

A new wood product, called cross-­laminated timber (pictured), or CLT, is the buzz of the construction industry, the Associated Press reports. It’s produced by only two timer mills in the US: D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. in Oregon and SmartLam in Montana. It’s made from rafts of 2-by-4 beams aligned in perpendicular layers, then laminated together.

CLT panels are lighter and less energy-intensive than concrete and steel and much faster to assemble on-site than regular timber, according to proponents.

It has been used in Europe for more than 20 years and in the spring, a Portland architectural firm will put CLT to the test in the US when it breaks ground on a 12-story wood building in the city’s Pearl District. It would be the tallest all-wood building in the world constructed in a seismic zone and the tallest all-wood building in North America, the AP reports.

Another green-building material, Noble Environmental Technologies’ Ecor, just got a $5.32 million boost, thanks to an investment from Netherlands-based paper manufacturer, Van Houtum.

The company announced a €5 million ($5.32 million) investment in a joint venture for the production of Ecor, made from recycled fiber-based waste: office paper, cardboard, recycled denim and other fabrics, hemp, jute, sugar cane bagasse, corn husks, wood dust and trimmings, among other waste streams. 

Ecor can be engineered into a variety of shapes for different applications. The company describes it as a sustainable alternative to wood, composites, aluminum and plastic. The product itself is also 100 percent recyclable. Noble Environmental Technologies says Ecor can help any business reduce its manufacturing costs and waste produced.

The recylced waste used to make the Ecor panels that will be manufactured by the Van Houtum joint venture with Noble Environmental Technologies will be sourced from regional enterprises and institutions, including the Schiphol Airport, recycling centers and manufacturing organizations.

These green building material announcements come as California considers a system to protect low-carbon projects from a market downturn that may worsen under a Trump administration, Bloomberg reports:

The state may guarantee the money these project developers get for emission-reduction and clean-fuel credits by auctioning options that oblige California to pay a minimum price for them, based on measures the state’s considering. Having a buyer of last resort encourages private finance.

California lawmakers are also considering a bill to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program past 2020 and allow the state to continue charging the emissions tax, as well as a law that would require 15 percent of certain new buildings constructed in the state to be equipped with solar power equipment.

The solar-equipment mandate is modeled after a San Francisco law that took effect Jan. 1.

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