Carbon Storing Building Prototype


Scaling bio-based building materials beyond specialty projects or custom homes is possible and promises healthier outcomes for people, ecosystems, and the climate. In order to test feasibility and potential benefits, a team of architects, builders, and engineers designed a prototype of a building that could realistically exist in Alameda County. 


While bio-based materials offer health and circularity benefits as well, the analysis in this study focuses on carbon. By employing 10 strategies, the prototype would emit about half of the embodied carbon (emissions along materials production supply chains) as using conventional material counterparts. It would additionally store double its embodied carbon footprint in its mass, resulting in a significant overall net reduction in carbon in the atmosphere. 


The Bay Area is anticipating significant volumes of construction in the coming decades. It would change the carbon equation if constructing buildings drew down carbon instead of emitting it. The construction industry could be called to play this role, reorienting the building sector away from harm and toward restoration. Local governments can review their building codes and other procedures and practices to identify any that inhibit more prevalent use of bio-based materials in their jurisdictions. They can also use economic development tools to stimulate markets for emerging materials.


This report is consolidates the findings of the project team into a brief introduction. The full description of architectural and engineering analysis, details on each of the ten strategies, and resources for further exploration are available in a separate appendix.


Ten Carbon Smart Strategies

1.       Straw insulation & Clay walls

2.       Cellulose interior insulation & straw-based MDF

3.       Compressed straw board partitions

4.       Clay floor finishes w/cork underlayment

5.       CLT podium, wood framing and HT BRB

6.       Compacted gravel

7.       Low-cement concrete

8.       Partially grouted Earthen Block

9.       Exterior wood siding

10.   Wood sourcing from verified replenishment of harvests

Download the preliminary report