A Fresh Approach to Decarbonizing Design: Start with Planning

Photo credit: Sasaki

BOSTON – Global design firm Sasaki announced the release of Carbon Conscience 2.0, a carbon calculator that allows users to test and iterate at crucial stages when the design is most flexible. These early-stage interventions enable designers to establish carbon benchmarking and goals for the project’s detailed design phases.

Carbon Conscience 2.0 is currently the only platform that supports district-scale, early-phase, whole-project-life-cycle analysis inclusive of site and building data. This version replaces the beta Version 1; incorporates feedback from experts, users, and both academic and professional peer reviewers; and represents the first full ‘gamma version’ of the Carbon Conscience platform. By providing Carbon Conscience to the design community as a free and publicly accessible tool, Sasaki hopes to empower designers and planners with data to more effectively advocate for low-carbon design, early in the design process.

Creating a new playbook for decarbonizing design

The team at Sasaki faced a challenge in the urban design and concept design phases of work—the team knew the decisions they were advising on could have potentially huge global warming-associated emissions—but didn’t know how to advocate in those early design phases. All existing carbon calculators required detailed design decisions, accurate bills of quantities, and schedules of materials—inputs that required a technical stage level of detail. As an integrated practice of architects, planners, landscape architects, civil engineers, and ecologists, Sasaki also understood the value of living systems in contributing to carbon sequestration and storage.

In response, Sasaki created Carbon Conscience Beta to test and explore what an early-phase tool could do to help planners and designers understand the carbon impacts of their proposals. Carbon Conscience 2.0 combines landscape, architectural, and ecological datasets to create a library of land uses that could be sketched with and iterated upon.

You can use the app here, where you’ll also find links to the revised and expanded white paper, Carbon Conscience Guidelines for low-carbon best practices, and other helpful links and resources.

What’s new in 2.0

Carbon Conscience 2.0 includes a completely rebuilt landscape architectural dataset, developed through Sasaki landscape architect Chris Hardy’s research as part of his 2023 Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellowship. Hardy created a landscape baseline materials database for 148 unique materials and product typologies, as well as a new model based on cited literature for ecosystem and softscape sequestration projections, inclusive of biomass, soil organic carbon, and allochthonous carbon. This work supports Climate Positive Design. It will also be part of the American Society of Landscape Architects Climate Action Plan’s next generation of decarbonizing design tools and resources.

CC2 would not have been possible without the support and mentorship of partner organizations and advisors, specifically the Landscape Architecture Foundation, Climate Positive Design, Architecture2030, the Carbon Leadership Forum, and EHDD. Stay tuned for Carbon Conscience Version 3, anticipated later this fall, which will advance the architectural datasets in collaboration with EHDD’s Epic platform and other industry partners.