Towards Carbon Neutrality and Beyond

In 2016, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement, which aims at keeping global temperature rise below +2°C compared to pre-industrial levels[1]. To achieve this ambitious goal the European Union should become carbon neutral by 2050[2]. At Bao Living we believe we are part of the solution and we don’t want to wait to take action for a better future.

It is urgent to mitigate climate change with carbon capture and sustainable resources management. Bao Living does both by leading the construction industry towards circular economy and restoring forests.

SAM for Circular Construction

At Bao Living we have been working hard on the development of SAM, the Smart Adaptable Module, to make the wasteful[3] and CO2-intensive[4] construction industry more sustainable. The construction and demolition waste management is a crucial part towards the development of a sustainable construction industry[5]. With our modular product we open the way to the circular construction economy. In this system, building materials do not follow a linear path, as they do now, from raw material to waste, but they are re-used and recycled, creating a closed cycle of material. However, even though we put a lot of effort in making SAM more sustainable, it is not fully circular yet.

We know the challenge that lies ahead of us, we know that off-setting SAM’s carbon emissions is not sufficient. That’s why we plan to undergo a full LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) of our product to investigate the most polluting elements and analyse potential solutions[6]. This approach will help us better understand our environmental impact, not only in CO2 emission but also on toxicity and on human health, since SAM is produced and used by people[7]. There’s still lot of work to be done to develop the full positive impact of SAM and we are looking forward to tackle this!

SAM#4 in the Circular Retrofit Lab, VUB

Trees for Carbon Storage

We still believe that our client should not have to buy a SAM on a promise for a better future: we want to guarantee it now! SAM is mostly made of wood, so what’s a better way to close the loop than by planting trees? Moreover, trees do not only provide a source of material, they are also the greatest CO2 sinks, as they capture carbon during their growth. Climate change mitigation through carbon storage is necessary to reach the goal set by the Paris Agreement. Further, it is urgent to actively conserve and restore our forests to assure their survival[8].

We calculated that a SAM unit contains between 4 and 6 trees, depending on its size. However, we also know that our product does not only require raw materials, but a lot of energy as well, usually by processes that also emit CO2. Pöyry et al.[9] worked on the LCA of a low-energy residential building in Finland and broke down the embodied CO2 depending on the building’s functions. They found out that the furnishing, i.e. the kitchen, the hallway and walk-in closets, the bathroom, the equipment and the appliances, contains 4,200kg of CO2 for an apartment of 75m2. This setting covers well the functionality of SAM but to be on the safe side we round-up our estimate to 4,500kg of CO2 per unit. Pagès et al.[10] confirms this result by stating that services represent 9.3% of embodied carbon of an overall 39,000kg of CO2 for an apartment of 60m2.

However, we must point out that the LCA’s we based our estimation on are not settled in Belgium, thus representing other construction approaches and methods. Moreover, the materials and their quantity used for these researches probably differ from what SAM is really made of. Nonetheless, this rough approach gives us a good estimation of the embodied carbon in our product.

Trees capture carbon mostly in their growth, the duration of this phase and the amount of carbon they sequester highly depend on the tree type and the environment it grows in. We can, however, average the carbon intake of a tree to 150kgCO2 over 20 years[11]. This means that we will need to plant 30 trees to off-set the 4,500kg of CO2 emitted by a SAM unit.

Photo by Deviyahya on Unsplash

This is exactly what we are going to do! For each sold SAM unit, we plant 30 trees with our partner WeForest, a great company engaging local communities, industries and research into reforestation. These trees will not only fight climate change along with us but also sustain local communities through the reforestation programs in the different regions they are active in. By planting 30 trees per SAM, Bao Living guarantees a carbon-neutral product as well as a positive impact on our environment now!

P.S. After publishing this post on the 23rd of August ’19 we received a message from our partner Vanhout.pro that they would like to contribute to making SAM carbon neutral. So they committed to donate the same amount of trees for each sold SAM as we do. This means that from now on SAM isn’t only carbon neutral but carbon negative! We absolutely love the commitment from Vanhout.pro and can’t wait to to create this positive impact by installing more SAM’s.


[1] Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Apr. 22, 2016, Retrieved Aug. 16 2019: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf

[2] European Union, “2050 long-term strategy”, Retrieved Aug 16 2019: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/strategies/2050_en

[3] European Union, Environment, “Construction and demolition waste (CDW)”, Retrieved Aug 16 2019: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/construction_demolition.htm

[4] F. Meggers, H. Leibundgut, S. Kennedy, M. Qin, M. Schlaich, W. Sobek, M. Shukuya, “Reduce CO2 from buildings with technology to zero emissions”, Sustainable Cities and Society, vol. 2, pp. 29–36, 2012.

[5] J.L. Gálvez-Martos, D. Styles, H. Schoenberger, B. Zeschmar-Lahl, “Construction and demolition waste best management practice in Europe”, Resources Convservation & Recycling, vol. 136, pp. 166–178, 2018.

[6] G. Daian, B. Ozarska, “Wood waste management practices and strategies to increase sustainability standards in the Australian wooden furniture manufacturing sector”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 17, pp. 1594–1602, 2009.

[7] D.R Iritany, D.A.L. Silva, Y.M.B. Saavedra, P.F.F. Grael, A.R.Ometto, “Sustainable strategies analysis through Life Cycle Assessment: a case study in a furniture industry”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 96, pp. 308–318, 2015.

[8] J.F. Bastin, Y. Finegold, C. Garcia, D. Mollicone, M. Rezende, D. Routh, C.M. Zohner, T.W. Crowther, “The global tree restoration potential”, Science, vol. 365, pp. 76–79, 2019.

[9] A. Pöyry, A. Säynäjoki, J. Heinonen, J.M. Junnonen, S. Junnila, “Embodied and construction phase greenhouse gas emissions of a low-energy residential building”, Procedia Economics and Finance, vol. 21, pp. 355–365, 2015.

[10] A. Pagès, M. Parlme, H. Coch, T. Isalgué, “Energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the construction and use of flats according to floor area”, In World Renewable Energy Congress WREC, 2008.

[11] WeForest — Making Earth Cooler, Frequently Asked Questions, Retrieved Aug 16 2019: https://www.weforest.org/page/faq#faq-block_1-7

B. Rivela, A. Hospido, M.T. Moreira, G. Feijoo, “Life Cycle Inventory of particleboard: a case study in the wood industry”, International Journal of LCA, vol. 11, pp. 106–113, 2006.