How to reduce carbon footprint in architecture

A building requires an immense amount of energy and resources. As per the International energy agency, the AEC sector amounts to over one-third of the overall energy consumption, which is Thirty-eight per cent of direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions. In the ever so evolving world, the demand for more construction rises and, in turn, increases energy demand. 

The Indian construction sector is a significant emitter, with the construction, operation and maintenance of buildings accounting for almost 31% of greenhouse gas emissions in India, according to the climate transparency report 2020. It’s essential to consider how a project use fewer resources and less pollution, be more sustainable and carbon footprint reduction.

The building design can aid decrease energy demand through building lifecycle. Strategies like designing the project according to the activity and the time of the day thus uses low electricity  and further low energy.


Designing windows to increase the room ventilation, decreasing dependence on auxiliary cooling solutions like air conditioning. Incorporating solar panel systems to make use of renewable energy, reducing the use of conventional energy resources.

The goal is to manage the embodied energy of the building. Architects make a big difference with beneficial design decisions during the building stage of a project. To achieve this goal, we apply the following mentioned sustainable design strategies.

1. Direct sun gain through openings

A direct sun gain is a desirable approach in cold climates. Sunlight is admitted through openings or glazed windows that heats the air inside the room. This approach requires glazed windows and thermal storage. The window on the south during the winters receive the maximum direct heat gain. Insulating curtains help in reducing heat loss during the night. 


Openings like clerestories, skylights can be used for more heat gain. The material of the wall also controls the heat within, like masonry, concrete to trap heat and maintain the room temperature. In hot climates, roof overhangs, shutters can decrease the undesirable solar heat gain.

2. Internal Trapped heat

Design strategies that reduce the need for the auxiliary system include proper fenestration placement and daylight optimization. Proper shading controls undesired heat gain. The shading device depth and position should be carefully designed to allow heat gain only during winters.


Natural ventilation is the most effective way to reduce trapped heat in the room. It creates a passive stack effect and pressure difference which brings in fresh cool air. The air change makes the internal environment comfortable for the occupants. Features that allow air inlets near the floor or the ceiling enhance stack effect. This method shouldn’t allow latent load with humid air.  


The landscape surrounding the building also helps enhance the ventilation. Choosing deciduous vegetation creates an inexpensive form of shading. Strategic placement of Trees and bushes divert fresh air into the building, reducing the need for a mechanical system.

3. Treat the top surface of the building

Indian subcontinent climate is hot and humid; solar gains make it strenuous to continue with everyday activities. The most heat gain is due to the roof of the building, which absorbs and radiates the collected heat into the upper floors of the building. The temperature rise contributes to the increased use of air conditioning, further leading to higher electricity use and cost. 


Some ways to reduce heat gain through the roof are-

  • Rooftop garden- The greenery absorbs most of the heat and doesn’t radiate it into the building. A green roof needs proper waterproofing to prevent damages due to water seepage.
  • A reflective treatment of the terrace surface- Painting the floor with cool colours, coating it with a white lime wash or using white ceramic or porcelain tiles.
  • Adding a shading like a pergola or canvas awning

4. Window Gaps

The loss of cooling happens when outside air enters through cracks and openings. The paradox of cracks is that in winters, too much air enters and in summer, not enough enters to improve air quality. Air leakages attribute to the occupants’ discomfort and humidity.


Reducing air leaks is cost-effective to decrease the heating or cooling cost, enhances comfort, durability and creates healthy indoors. Caulking and weather-stripping are effective air-sealing practices. Caulk is usually applicable for cracks and openings around door and window frames, and weather-stripping is used to seal components that move like doors and openable windows.  

Way Forward

Climate change is one of the most defining and urgent issues of the future. The construction industry has a pivotal part to play in guiding the global community towards reducing carbon emissions. It is no longer a choice to reduce carbon emissions; it is a necessity and not an impossibility in today’s time.

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