Harvard publishes analysis of HouseZero's first year

In my writing and my Princeton lecture (see previous post) I have been quite critical of HouseZero, a project of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
Last week, Harvard released a short report on the energy use and production of HouseZero during its first year.
It also published a peer reviewed article about HouseZero’s efforts to offset all of its operational and embodied energy.
I would love to hear people’s opinions of one or both of these documents.
(I may write about these reports for Architectural Record but I would NEVER quote anyone without permission.)


I would be gad to review both reports and give you a Critical ISO 14001 Review of both. The US SEC requires Reporting to the UNFCCC PRI (Net Zero Analysis is a signatory) UNFCCC Climate Neutral Now Initiative (Net Zero Analysis is collaborating with the UNFCCC Secretariat in setting up the North America Climate Neutral Now Initiative Working Group), along with Reporting to The Equator Principles (New Construction, Major Remodeling, Asset Acquisition and Divestiture) Please feel free to reach out and send them to me at my email

I would also like to setup a time for us to chat what works for your schedule?


i have reviewed both papers and they do not meet the basic ISO 14001 Requirements:

  1. LCA is applied to products in the building for EPD’s there is no tracking on any ISO 14001 Required Audit Under The Equator Principles
  2. The Operational Carbon Footprint is calculated incorrectly by pulling out the IT Loads ther is not a ISO 14001 Operational Carbon Footprint, I would suggest that they look at developing the correct audit protocols

hi. call me in the next 10 minutes or else anytime after 7:00 EST. 917 364 7899.

Fred, I will call you after 7:00 PM EST

Fred -

I have very much enjoyed reading your opinion pieces.

I look forward to reading the follow up on the Harvard Zero Home


I’ve only read the short report…

Can you expand on your two points?

Are you saying that they did not use EPDs to determine the embodied carbon footprint?

So, their total EUI is 54.1 kWh/m2. 26.6 kWh/m2 without IT/Plug loads. PV generated 38.7 kWh/m2…

Am I doing my math right? 54.1 kWh/m2 to kbtu/sqft is about 162? That is very substantial.

So they are claiming net zero is met without including IT/Plug loads. That’s so Harvard…

Without digging in deep, I did find it interesting that their technical systems accounted for almost half the total embodied carbon. This definitely puts some things in perspective, when most people think structural systems dominate the pie.


There is a standard and audit process defined by ISO 14000 Family of Standards that was selected by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015 that Harvard did not follow to determine their claims. Furthermore the UNFCCC, US SEC, and Treasury have selected The Equator Principles for New Construction and Major Remodeling Projects which requires an ISO 14064 Audit with the project boundary set at all firms, land use changes, demolition, material, trash, recycling, energy and water carbon footprints be included which was not done.

In essence Harvard did not follow any of the standards to do their analysis or collect all of the data.

Thank You,

George D Sullivan

Sr. Principal and CEO

Net Zero Analysis

ISO 14001 – 2015/2018 Lead Auditor

Certified US DOE Zero Net Energy Home Verifier

Passive House Consultant

Certified RESNET Provider

AIA Training Provider

Cell Phone 773-230-4462

Skype george.sullivan6

e-mail gds@netzeroanalysis.com




The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - Carbon Neutrality Program

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Hi George,

Without coming across as daft, aren’t the ISO standards and protocols you’re referencing, especially ISO 14064, geared towards the products themselves?

Presumably with their whole building LCA, which they do claim to follow EN 15978 and ISO 14044, on the embodied carbon side, they should have included products with EPDs in their analysis that follow and have been verified in accordance with ISO 14025 & 14044 (all the industry generic EPDs are, to my knowledge). Am I missing something here?

That said, there are some nuggets in their approach that have been excluded due to what they claim limitations, i.e. demolition waste and plug loads… to which I call shenanigans. I also don’t see anything about refrigerant leakage.

They are also taking liberties on the final CO2e emissions number, like excluding the battery, because “the building itself and the solar production are not dependent on a battery to achieve the surplus energy and zero CO2e emissions target”. So from my perspective, they are claiming resiliency measures do not warrant being included in the carbon footprint, which seems bogus to me as well.

They are also trying to claim future technological advances on PV and Batteries within their LCA scenarios, which is interesting. Seems like a big “what if”.

I also noticed their Table 3, for total and normalized lifecycle embodied CO2e emissions, leaves out B1-B3 (Use, Maintenance, and Repair), which is interesting…

I haven’t read the full paper in detail yet, but definitely plan to.

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When doing new construction one must defer to THe Equator Principles applying the ISO Project Boundary fromLand use change, all professionals and contractor’s carbon footprints are included, embodied carbon up to final turnover to operations ISO 14064 application n the widest sense

@gds - George, I’m new to the LCA world, and I’m doing my best to better understand the methodologies and produce accurate whole building LCAs.

There are obviously a lot of different standards and references out there. You mentioned ISO 14064, which appears to be for Organizations, not the building itself. And with your reference to the “Equator Principles”, again, it references a standard for financial intuitions.

It seems to me like the boundary line you draw extends well beyond the building itself and to the organizations and institutions that make up the development team (owner, architect, etc.)

Am I on the right track?

I am not seeing any academic papers on whole building LCA take it to this level of extended boundary.

Thanks and happy holidays!


an LCA is for a product not a building LCA is ISO14024/25/25, buildings are not a product becouse they fail the simple test of additionality in other words they require ongoing inputs of Energy, Water, and generat trash and recycling. Buildings also change over time major remodeling’s, etc.[Article for your review](https://netzeroanalysis.com/wp-under The Equator Principles content/uploads/2021/10/Real-Estate-Issues-The-Coming-U.S.-Regulatory-Oversight-of-and-Demand-for-Climate-Disclosure.pdf)

Buildings, Plants Highways ect are all payed for with money the Equator Principles is the standard that projects file and requires the entire carbon boundary which includes all of the companies and land use changes

attemption to use LCA on a building is just incorrect to all of the regulations and standards LCA’s are for products.

let me know if you want to chat by phone?



I get what you are saying… but this is where we are at in the industry…we need whole building LCAs to demonstrate the total carbon emissions of our designs. There will obviously be assumptions made on operations, replacements, etc…

I don’t get how you are participating on this forum if you are against that idea…


Sorry for the delay, there are standards that the UNFCC has developed and requires The Equator Principles for New Construction requires that the land use change (Carbon Footprint) is calculated and that all firms involved in the project carbon foot print be included including the developer and the investors carbon footprint, job site energy water, trash and recycling are tracked and carbon footprint assigned and all materials EPD are used, then you have the carbon footprint of the design. O & M is a seperate issue and energy, water, etc usage is audited annually. Have you calculated the carbon footprint of the design team for Scope 1 and 2?

@gds, I’m by no means an LCA expert, but I have not seen a building LCA include Scope 1 and 2 emissions from design/development team. If an architecture firm is working on 50 projects at once, how do you attribute their scope 1 emissions to a singular project? Weighted average based on total hours spent? I have not seen any protocol/methodology that addresses this.

That said, job site energy, water, waste, etc. gets covered under stage A5 and O&M gets covered under Stage B1-B7, per EN 15978.

While I think we should include design team emissions (when we claim zero carbon we should include much more than often is being included), our office operations are around 5% of the operational emissions from projects designed during one year – and this includes many, large high performance projects. If we include emissions from all buildings we’ve designed in the last 10 years (since they are still operating) as well as embodied carbon, our office carbon footprint is negligible in comparison.