Climate change has emerged as the dominant environmental concern of our times, and buildings, as a sector of the economy, represent the most cost-effective opportunity for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Estimating the carbon footprint of a building can be quite simple or enormously complex, depending on what one needs the estimate to do. The simple approach addresses only operating energy and accepts broad-brush assumptions about CO2 emissions from electricity generation. More sophisticated approaches, which are not yet well established, add other emissions into the mix, including those from transportation, construction, water, materials, and waste management. These more complicated calculations also include greenhouse gasses other than CO2.

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