OFFICIALLY CARBON NEUTRAL

We’re Certified Carbon Neutral!

In Mid 2019 we joined the Australian Architects Declare movement, as it was launched. As a show of our commitment to the future we signed the declaration and in early 2020, and Talina also joined the Australian Architects Declare national steering committee.

Over 1000 other Australian Architectural practices have now signed! A cornerstone to this commitment was to go beyond the declaration and to take action. To ensure that we could walk the talk, we all set out to achieve carbon neutral status for our studios/offices/practices as a first vital step. (We then of course want all our clients to also be aiming for net-zero emissions with their construction projects.)

We are proud to say that our office  is now officially Carbon Neutral, and we have received our  Carbon Offsetting Certificate for a three year period.

Pangolin Associates audited our annual consumption for the 2020 calendar year and the following three steps process was followed:

  • Measure our current Carbon footprint
  • Reduce Carbon emissions where possible
  • Purchase Carbon Offsets

Our office has 4FTE (full-time-equivalent) people & produces 10.5 tCO2-e/yr, so we needed to purchase 33 offset credits to offset our carbon emissions.

Unsurprisingly, the two largest activity-sectors of our GreenHouse Gas emissions are from our electricity-use and from our equipment (computers and printing).

 

Now that we have identified where our emissions are coming from due to the Carbon Audit process, the aim is to also reduce these. 

Here’s some of the steps we were already taking to reduce our emissions:

  • Our light bulbs are all energy efficient types (LED and Fluorescent)
  • Our staff cycle/walk to the studio whenever possible
  • Our loo-rolls come from Who Gives A Crap
  • Our paper is recycled or Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC) and aiming for Carbon-Neutral brands (we’re trying to be more ‘paperless’ but not always practicable!)
  • Our studio bins are separated into General waste, Paper recycling, Glass recycling,  Soft-plastic recycling, Composting (lots of tea-leaves and coffee-grinds that go home to Talina’s worm farm!)
  • Our purchases aim for low-packaging, eco, or recyclable wherever possible.
  • Our client meetings are often held over zoom to reduce car-use (as we work all over Victoria and often have clients who are 100km away)
  • Our studio is unfortunately NOT a Passivhaus high-performance and well-insulated building! We do have all-electric heating/cooling with an efficient reverse-cycle Air Conditioning system for the extremes in temperature. In Winter we embrace our ugg-boots and heated-lap-blankets to warm us efficiently too (it is Ballarat after all!)
  • We were already purchasing 60 trees each year through Fifteen Trees to be planted as a non-certified carbon-offsetting exercise. This is based on the knowledge that one tree can collect and store 268kg over its lifetime. If we plant 60 trees per year, this offsets 15tonnes of carbon per year.  We will continue to do this also now that we know this more than covers our practice’s emissions. 
  • We’re also in the process of supporting renewables by switching to 100% accredited GreenPower as this will make the single biggest difference! (Whilst we do this for our households, we are still negotiating with the other businesses that share our building – so it’s not been as simple a process as we’d hoped)

To become Carbon-Neutral, the emissions we generate as a business need to be neutralised – or offset. Offsets are traded on an open market in clearly defined units, with one tonne of CO2e emissions equal to one carbon offset, also known as a carbon credit. You can buy carbon credits in projects that mitigate climate change

We chose to purchase our carbon credits from the Myrtah Wind Farm in India. As well as providing a source of clean energy, the Mytrah Energy Wind Power Project improves the overall well being of local communities. The result of Mytrah’s work is impressive:it provides employment, clean water and sanitation, improved agricultural techniques, and opportunities for everyone – including women and youth. There were a number of projects that we could select from, and all are rigorously verified as accredited. 

Big thanks to Celeste in our studio who compiled all our data for the audit!

 And thank you to ArchiTeam and Pangolin Associates who teamed up for this initiative for small architectural practices to measure and offset our carbon emissions in response to the Architects Declare movement. The method allowed us to measure our footprint in a manner that is accountable and comparatively affordable. Credibility in the measure of offset of carbon emissions is essential if we are to send a clear collective message.

 If you feel inspired to join the pledge please do visit Architects Declare website for resources, guides and links to start your own efforts to be a positive contributor our planet. And of course, everyone can go Carbon-Neutral in their homes and businesses – not just architects! (You can download the “Guide to Going Carbon Neutral” here)

This is just the start of our commitment as part of Architects Declare movement in response to the Climate and BioDiversity Emergency – we are also encouraging all our projects to be/have: 

  • all-electric (no gas),  
  • high-performance building envelopes (fabric-first), 
  • low operational energy-use (efficiency-first), 
  • powered by renewable resources (net-zero), 
  • low-embodied-energy materials
  • certified natural materials that are harvested sustainably

And to build with an emphasis on:

  • reducing waste
  • minimising harm to the local environment and associated ecosystems  
  • caring for country

 

Our next step will be to formalise this vision in our practice’s “Sustainability Action Plan”, so watch this space!

 

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