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It is estimated that buildings are responsible for about 40% of global CO2 emissions, making them a critical area for research in light of curbing rapid climate change. To accomplish this, PI/KHS is undertaking the first embodied carbon study conducted in the Canadian Arctic in partnership with Mantle Developments and Qillaq Innovations. This study will provide important information as to the benefit of the Kuugalak cultural workspace's carefully orchestrated materials sourcing and procurement process. This information will also serve as an important benchmark against which the carbon count of future energy efficient buildings can be measured and compared. By understanding and visualizing the total carbon footprint of our building, we hope to bring greater awareness of embodied carbon accounting to Nunavut for wider application across both the construction and energy sectors.

We will use this study as a key resource to help educate funders, academics and industry professionals as to the realities of construction and energy efficiency in the North. While targets such as net-zero carbon are an increasingly referenced standard for government and industry in southern Canada, there remain insurmountable barriers to achieving these same goals in the North. These barriers arise in two key areas:


  • Construction: There is a limited amount and selection of materials that we can choose from; with affordability, suitability for Arctic winter and 24 hours daylight environments, climate change resiliency, ease of installation, maintenance repair and replacement, all being considerations prioritized before the embodied carbon lens. Local contractors and builders emphasize that the energy efficiency and low carbon lenses need to be balanced with longevity and ease of replacement as well as reflect the capacity of the local workforce who will be conducting the work. Our community additionally faces many challenges exacerbated by the rapid and profound impacts of climate change, and we must balance climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

  • Operation: Cambridge Bay is solely powered by diesel generators, fueling a grid unable to handle large amounts of renewable energy. The local Energy Corporation (QEC) launched a Commercial and Institutional Power Producer Program (CIPP), but it is still in its infancy. CIPP applicants must additionally bear all costs associated with the renewable energy project. While purchasing high quality carbon offsets will be explored, lack of CIPP incentives coupled with high costs for local power make this prohibitively expensive. 


Our project will calculate the embodied carbon emissions associated with the pre-occupancy stage of the Kuugalak building.  As illustrated in the graph below, assessment will include the emissions associated with both pre-construction (A1-A3), including materials supply, transport to manufacturers, and manufacturing; and construction processes (A4-A5), including transportation of materials from manufacturer to construction site, and construction/ installation processes. In addition to this work, our project will seek to model a comparison between our building as being built in Nunavut and under more “typical” conditions in southern Canada, further drawing out and highlighting the distinct challenges and carbon costs of Arctic-based construction. A final portion of the study will calculate Whole Life Carbon Payback for our new building, enabling both our own and other organizations to understand what is required to offset the building’s embodied carbon. We will research various alternatives for paying-back carbon through Indigenous led-offset programs, including preliminary research to explore what future offset opportunities might be available in regards to preservation of Arctic landscape. 



This research program was generously supported by:

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