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What are the different labels or names for a Sustainable Building ?

What is the difference between a Carbon Neutral and a Net Zero Building? Between a Carbon Positive and Carbon Negative Building? As these labels might all sound complicated, we decided in this article to give our proper definition of each term and their certifications equivalent for you to better understand this very wide subject.

Carbon Neutral, Negative or Positive or even Net-Zero: what is the difference?

Carbon Neutral: Being carbon neutral for companies implies that the carbon emissions they produce with their activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed. It means the same quantity of carbon is emitted by the company and then stored or removed from the atmosphere to have a neutral impact on the environment.

Net-Zero: A company that has a Net-Zero emissions balance is a company that has an equilibrium between the amount of GreenHouse Gas (GHG) released and stored. They will first try to reach zero emissions, so there is no carbon needing to be captured or offset. Net Zero also means going beyond simply reducing carbon emissions but also all other greenhouse gasses emissions (Methane, Nitrous Oxide, …).

Carbon Negative or Climate Positive: A company with a Climate Positive or Carbon Negative impact goes beyond net zero carbon emissions. Its activities make additional positive contributions to the environment by removing additional carbon emission from the atmosphere. It means the company stores more carbon than it emits, in order to have a positive impact on the environment.

Carbon Positive: Carbon Positive refers to a marketing term used by companies but meaning the same as Climate Positive and Carbon Negative.

Green: Being green for a company is a general term to define a company that acts in a way which minimizes its impact on the environment.

What are the building certifications that take these definitions into account ?

  • A building called Carbon Neutral is a building where the design, construction and operation phases do not emit greenhouse gasses or have been balanced. If the construction phase does not emit carbon then the balance is already neutral but if it emits carbon then it must be stored or removed from the atmosphere to have a neutral balance. To certify a building is carbon neutral there are several labels:

Produced and published by the British Standards Institution, PAS 260 is a standard that demonstrates companies are carbon neutral. In fact, as companies claim to reach carbon neutrality, the BSI aims then to certify every company becoming carbon neutral – or achieving ‘net zero’ GHG emissions – by 2050.

  • Moreover, a Net-Zero Building is Net-Zero Energy and Net-Zero Carbon efficient. It means the building produces its own energy on-site or takes it from off-site renewable energy, all the power needed by the building is generated through renewable energy and doesn’t release any carbon in the atmosphere. The related certifications are:

With international recognition EDGE proposes different levels of certification: EDGE Certified (20% savings in energy, water and embodied energy in materials), EDGE Advanced (40% on-site energy savings) and Zero Carbon (100% renewables on-site or off-site or purchased carbon offsets). While LEED will also look at air quality and health of the occupant, EDGE will only focus on Energy, Water and Materials.

LEED created by the US Green Building Council is a globally recognised certification for green buildings. There are four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design considers energy use, carbon emissions, water conservation, waste reduction, and green materials selection but also transportation, health, and indoor environmental quality.

To go further there is also the