Greenhouse gases are gases that are relatively transparent to short-wave infrared radiation (such as heat from the sun). This means that they allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere and heat the Earth’s surfaces. These surfaces then re-radiate that heat as long-wave infrared radiation, which greenhouse gases tend to absorb rather than transmit.
The result is that the long-wave infrared radiation is ‘trapped’ and heat accumulates in the atmosphere causing a warming process. This process is known as the ‘greenhouse effect' because it is similar to the effect that glass has, trapping heat in greenhouses.
The four main greenhouse gases are:
It can be used as a measure of the impact that something has on climate change, or of the degree to which it consumes the Earth's resources. This can be used to help understand and reduce the impacts of activities, or to compare things so that lower impact alternatives can be selected.
Carbon footprints are very difficult to calculate accurately because of the complexity of the life cycle of the elements being analysed, which can include multiple components, comprising many raw materials, which have to be extracted, processed, transported, manufactured, operated, disposed of and so on. As a result, a number of carbon footprint calculators have been developed to help produce consistent, and so comparable, results.
Carbon footprints can be reduced by the careful selection, use and re-use of products, and by carbon offsetting, a process that offsets unavoidable carbon emissions by funding carbon dioxide saving projects.
The term ‘carbon footprint’ is similar in meaning to ‘embodied energy’ which refers to the total energy consumed by a building or product throughout its life, including; initial embodied energy, recurring embodied energy, operational energy and demolition energy. For more information see: Embodied energy.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Carbon capture and storage.
- Carbon capture processes.
- Carbon dioxide equivalent.
- Carbon dioxide.
- Carbon emissions.
- Carbon factor.
- Carbon Plan.
- Embodied carbon.
- Embodied energy.
- Gas Goes Green.
- Is the desire to reduce the embodied carbon of new buildings damaging the UK steel industry?
- Life cycle assessment.
- Low or zero carbon technologies.
- Operational carbon.
- Sustainable materials.
- Upfront emissions.
- Using CO2 to make construction products and materials.
- Utilising life cycle costing and life cycle assessment.
- Where does embodied carbon analysis stop?
- Wood and carbon.
Issue support documents
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Issue support documents are written for named BREEAM Issues or sub-issues. More info. (ac) = awaiting content
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- BREEAM Sustainability champion
- BREEAM Environmental management
- BREEAM Considerate construction
- BREEAM Monitoring of construction site impacts
- BREEAM Aftercare support
- BREEAM Seasonal commissioning
- BREEAM Testing and inspecting building fabric
- BREEAM Life cycle cost and service life planning
- BREEAM Stakeholder consultation (ac)
- BREEAM Commissioning (ac)
- BREEAM Handover (ac)
- BREEAM Inclusive and accessible design (ac)
- BREEAM Post occupancy evaluation
 Health and Wellbeing
- BREEAM Visual comfort Daylighting (partly ac)
- BREEAM Visual comfort View out
- BREEAM Visual comfort Glare control
- BREEAM Indoor air quality plan
- BREEAM Indoor air quality Ventilation
- BREEAM Thermal comfort
- BREEAM Internal and external lighting (ac)
- BREEAM Indoor pollutants VOCs (ac)
- BREEAM Potential for natural ventilation (ac)
- BREEAM Safe containment in laboratories (ac)
- BREEAM Acoustic performance
- BREEAM Safety and security (ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of energy use and carbon emissions
- BREEAM Energy monitoring
- BREEAM External lighting
- BREEAM Low carbon design
- BREEAM Passive design
- BREEAM Free cooling
- BREEAM LZC technologies
- BREEAM Energy efficient cold storage (partly ac)
- BREEAM Energy efficient transportation systems
- BREEAM Energy efficient laboratory systems
- BREEAM Energy efficient equipment (partly ac)
- BREEAM Drying space
- BREEAM Transport assessment and travel plan
- BREEAM Public transport accessibility
- BREEAM Sustainable transport measures
- BREEAM Proximity to amenities
- BREEAM Cyclist facilities
- BREEAM Alternative modes of transport (ac)
- BREEAM Maximum car parking capacity
- BREEAM Travel plan
- BREEAM Home office (ac)
- BREEAM Water consumption
- BREEAM Water efficient equipment
- BREEAM Water monitoring
- BREEAM Water leak detection (ac)
- BREEAM Hard landscaping and boundary protection
- BREEAM Responsible sourcing of materials
- BREEAM Insulation
- BREEAM Designing for durability and resilience
- BREEAM Life cycle impacts
- BREEAM Material efficiency (ac)
- BREEAM Construction waste management
- BREEAM Recycled aggregates
- BREEAM Speculative floor & ceiling finishes
- BREEAM Adaptation to climate change
- BREEAM Operational waste
- BREEAM Functional adaptability (ac)
 Land Use and Ecology
- BREEAM Site Selection
- BREEAM Ecological value of site
- BREEAM Protection of ecological features
- BREEAM Minimising impact on existing site ecology
- BREEAM Enhancing site ecology
- BREEAM Long term impact on biodiversity (ac)
- BREEAM Impact of refrigerants
- BREEAM NOx emissions
- BREEAM Flood risk management (ac)
- BREEAM Surface water run-off (ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of night time light pollution (partly ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of noise pollution
Once an ISD has been initially created the '(ac)' marker can be removed
This particular index is based around the structure of the New Construction and RFO schemes.