A Review of 5 Carbon Calculators

Which calculators are best for quantifying the emissions of single-family homes? 

A common challenge home builders face when starting their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) journey is selecting a software tool or calculator that accurately quantifies their carbon emissions. The University of Denver (DU) in partnership with Thrive Home Builders analyzed five carbon calculators and determined which one was the best suited for calculating the embodied carbon of a stick-built, single-family home.   

An integral part of ESG disclosures is quantifying your company’s emissions. For home builders, that means calculating the carbon emissions of the constructed homes. As more home builders adopt ESG, the demand for an accurate, user-friendly carbon calculator has drastically increased. The market is flooded with calculators and tools that promise to effectively measure the carbon emissions of buildings.  

The sheer number of calculators on the market can intimidate potential users into prematurely abandoning their ESG journey. Some calculators focus solely on embodied carbon, others on operational carbon, and some can do an entire life cycle analysis of the building. Identifying what you want to measure is the first step in selecting a carbon calculator. Additional factors to consider include ease of use, cost-effectiveness, time efficiency, and the accuracy of the database.  

Thrive Home Builders, partnered with the University of Denver (DU) to establish which carbon calculator aligns with the criteria outlined above and accurately quantifies the embodied carbon of one of their single-family home floor plans. Faculty and students at DU used the Bill of Materials (BOM) from Thrive’s stick-built, single-family home model to input necessary data into the calculators. The five calculators used in the case study include EC3, BEAM Estimator, One Click LCA, Athena, and EHDD's EPIC (Early Phase Integrated Carbon). 

University of Denver students and faculty determined that One Click LCA was the best calculator suited for the metrics needed by Thrive Home Builders. One Click LCA has a robust database, intuitive user interface, and requires minimal reconfiguration of the BOM to generate accurate embodied carbon calculations. Additionally, One Click LCA is time efficient and can go beyond embodied carbon calculations to conduct a full life cycle analysis of the single-family home model. 

The results of DU’s preliminary study are subject to change with future research. In subsequent research studies, the University of Denver plans to increase the number of calculators being evaluated in addition to increasing the number of users per calculator.

Selecting the right carbon calculator is essential for sustaining a home builder’s ESG strategy and values. For more information on the Thrive Home Builders’ Carbon Calculator Case Study, please download the full report by clicking here.