Material Carbon Emissions from New Homes

I just got this email from Chris Magwood, of the the Endeavour Centre in Canada, that I would like to share with you.

Builders for Climate Action has recently released two major studies examining material carbon emissions from as-built new homes. The studies include large samples, with 34 homes in Nelson, BC and 503 homes in Toronto, Canada.

The results are stunning:

  • The average new home in the region is responsible for 30-40 tons of emissions, before anyone moves in
  • Based on this average, materials for new low-rise homes in Canada are responsible for about 9-10 million tons of emissions annually, more than the tailpipe emissions of over 2 million cars
  • The material-related emissions from an all-electric new home will outweigh its operational emissions for about 60 years
  • The material-related emissions from a gas-heated new home will outweigh its operational emissions for about 15 years


This is not necessarily a “bad news” study. With a bit of action from builders and policy makers, we can turn this situation around:

  • Over 20 percent of regional builders are already beating the average carbon footprint result by 33%
  • Affordable material swaps can reduce emissions by 50-75%
  • In Nelson, BC, there was no direct correlation between a home’s level of energy efficiency and its material emissions
  • A concerted effort to prioritize low-carbon and carbon-storing materials for new homes could eliminate this pool of emissions completely, while also meeting improved energy efficiency targets, offering better indoor air quality and reducing landfill waste!

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