User Guide

How Carbon Planner Works

Carbon Planner turns basic user-provided location and land use information into forecasts of greenhouse gas emissions by subjecting them to performance standards and measures designed to derive Metric Tons of CO2 equivalents (MTCO2e).

Project location is defined by ZIP Code, which in turn relates to a California climate zone. The climate zone and building type determine the Energy use intensity of the buildings in any land use.

Transportation emissions are derived from the trip generation characteristics of each Land Use Type. Different trip generation results are produced depending on the range of urban context from rural to urban. Urban trips are discounted, as are trips within a project between complementary Land Use Types. Each mile of auto or truck traffic generates a quantity of CO2 and other gases.

The electrical energy needed to collect, treat and transmit Water from source to site varies between hydrologic zones, ZIP Codes and utilities. Carbon Planner publicly-available date on embedded energy in water delivery to Northern and Southern California. It takes over three times more energy to deliver water to Southern California users than Northern; this is built in to the energy calculations.

  • There are nine hydrologic zones in California. However, Carbon Planner utilizes available data on energy embedded in water per Northern and Southern California.

Disposing of Solid Waste takes energy, and results in CO2 emissions. California has established regulations which will result in reduction of greenhouse gases as a result of recycling, consumer education and regulated disposal methods. Every Land Use Type generates recognized amounts of solid waste. Disposing of these is subject to state standards for CO2/ton. These are included in the standards.

  • AB 341 requires 75% solid waste recycling by 2020. Current rate as of 2015, just over 50% (Business as Usual). 

Construction operations take significant amounts of energy, and emit considerable CO2. However, they are one time emissions. Therefore, commonly accepted measures of emissions from contruction operations are adopted by Carbon Planner, and amortized over commonly accepted project lifetimes, variously given as 25-50 years in California. CP uses a 50 year project life.

Vegetation is a CEQA category. It is included because of the ability of trees and other vegetation to absorb and sequester carbon. Measures of this ability can vary substantially, depending on the pre-existing vs. post- construction site vegetation, and the methods of maintaining landscaped areas which generate greenhouse gases.

For these reasons, an upcoming version of Carbon Planner will include Open Space as a definable Land Use Type, with varying sequestration rates.


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