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Make an Impact with the Zero Net Carbon Collaboration (ZNCC)

By: Madeline Marbury

The Zero Net Carbon Collaboration for Existing and Historic Buildings (ZNCC) is looking for new partners in the fight to reduce the carbon footprint of existing and historic buildings. The ZNCC currently includes organizational representatives and individual members who are working to develop strategies to reach the zero net carbon goals being established by government entities and to reduce the overall impact of existing buildings on our environment. Our principal, Scott Henson, is a co-chair of the ZNCC along with Mark Thompson Brandt of MTBA Architects, Ottawa, Lori Ferriss of Goody Clancy, Boston, and Nakita Reed of Quinn Evans, Washington.

What is the ZNCC?

The ZNCC was founded in 2017 with the lofty goal of trying to get heritage structures into the climate action conversation.

As most zero net carbon advocates understand, renovating an existing building to lower its carbon footprint is typically “greener” than constructing a new one. Until recently, the green building sector has not paid enough attention to existing building stock despite the fact that there is so much climate action to be taken there. Members of the ZNCC identify tools and research to decarbonize existing and/or historic buildings and work with allied organizations to share information.

Whether a building has a heritage pedigree or not, these structures form a certain fabric for healthy neighborhoods. Decarbonizing buildings means decarbonizing communities, so by retrofitting a variety of existing and/or historic buildings the ZNCC’s work can benefit everyone, as it should.

The Goals of the ZNCC

The ZNCC has identified four specific ways in which the organizational members and individual members can work to complete the goals set for the organization.


The ZNCC has worked hard to become a curator of knowledge about the efforts to reach zero net carbon in existing buildings. To that end, the ZNCC is working to assemble a large reference database that contains as much pertinent data as possible, including “initiatives related to carbon accounting and preservation/reuse in the built environment.”


Members of the ZNCC realize that not enough is known about this subject. We are continuously attempting to identify and fill gaps in knowledge concerning carbon accounting and other aspects of the zero net carbon initiative. For example, members of our group are actively refining a new tool called “2Build or Not 2Build” which is a calculator that can be used during policy establishment and pre-design and construction to determine the route of the lowest carbon impact possible.


The information created and curated by the ZNCC is only helpful if they have a proper means to communicate it to others. Members are currently working to get the message out to agencies and organizations by developing an informational website and disseminating knowledge about the necessity of their work.


Much of the work in the building sector around heritage and decarbonization is siloed.  The ZNCC works to connect various allied organizations such as the Carbon Leadership Forum, Passive House Accelerator, New Buildings Institute, AIA, APT, RAIC, Architecture 2030, ICOMOS, and others.

These are the four major operation modes and objectives of the ZNCC, and every member is working tirelessly to see them through.

Becoming a Member of the ZNCC

The ZNCC began as a collaboration between the Association for Preservation Technology and several other organizations including AIA, RAIC, Architecture 2030, and ICOMOS.

Now, many others are being welcomed into the fold to help meet the goals established by the ZNCC over the last 3 ½ years. Several partners have already joined, and the organization is looking for more members.

Anyone that believes they or their organization has something to offer in the fight for zero net carbon in existing buildings should reach out to the ZNCC to see how they can get involved!

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