Making Steps Toward Zero

Electric meters in a row measuring power use. Electricity consumption concept. 3d illustration

2019 is the year of action, as leaders in sustainable real estate take major steps toward zero – from zero waste to zero carbon.

Ambitious organizations are aiming for minimal—or even positive—impacts. The release of multiple zero carbon standards in 2018, including CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building (ZCB) Standard, USGBC’s LEED Zero and ILFI’s Zero Carbon Certification, provide for  an opportunity this year.

Growing interest in zero impact is likely to culminate with a number of case studies and projects this year. San Francisco introduced or updated several initiatives in 2018 that exemplify changes in building management toward zero:

San Francisco’s Zero Waste Goal: The city of San Francisco has a goal of zero waste by 2020. While not on track to achieve this goal, the city announced in 2018 that it will audit large waste generators, including more than 400 buildings, on their practices every three years. Properties that fail an audit will be required to hire a full-time trash sorter. Facilities will need to innovate and improve practices to reduce landfill waste leading up to the start of the audits in July.

San Francisco’s Zero Carbon Goal: In 2018 the city of San Francisco announced a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050, with an interim goal that all buildings constructed in 2030 or later will be net zero carbon. Given that about half the city’s emissions come from electricity and gas used in homes and office buildings, these structures are a major focus for the city’s carbon neutral commitment. While the goal year is more than a decade out, innovations for meeting this goal will likely grow in 2019.

San Francisco’s Sustainable Carpet Regulation: In 2018, the city of San Francisco also adopted sustainable carpet purchasing requirements that will impact all city departments. The regulation requires the use of carpet tiles, as opposed to broadloom carpet, in most applications, which will enable partial floor replacement and ultimately reduce material use. Chemicals of concern, such as flame retardants, antimicrobials and poly- or per-fluorinated compounds are prohibited, which improves the recyclability of carpet and reduces concerns around exposure to toxins. As carpets are replaced and new buildings require flooring, this regulation will help push flooring in the city toward the circular economy.

The time for action to get to zero is now.

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