Atelier Ten’s Roadmap to Absolute Zero Carbon

To safeguard the future we want, we need to go beyond “Net Zero” and shift to “Absolute Zero Carbon” as our new paradigm.

Atelier Ten is developing creative solutions to push projects beyond “Net Zero Carbon” and toward “Absolute Zero Carbon“.

The industry has used the concept of “net zero” for some time, and it’s a useful construct, but is limited scope and assumes the use of carbon offsets to balance (or “cancel-out”) building emissions. “Absolute Zero Carbon” buildings on the other hand removes offsets and pushes projects to achieve zero emissions from conception through operation. It means all emissions from building operations and materials, refrigerants, construction, infrastructure, and landscape will be zero. It means buildings will be zero carbon every minute of every day.

Earlier this year, Atelier Ten dedicated all of our U.S. staff to a hackathon and ongoing research to identify and research every challenge that stands in the way of Absolute Zero Carbon buildings. For many issues, deep research and design thinking is needed to get all the way to zero. Each topic we studied could, no doubt, fuel a PhD’s worth of research – but we don’t have that kind of time. We need to move fast!

While Absolute Zero Carbon may seem like an overwhelming goal, we created a simple roadmap – just six steps to take each time we design.

We are dedicated to making a positive change in the built environment, but we can’t do it alone. We are sharing our roadmap with the larger community in the hopes that we can work together quickly to change the industry.

Interested in joining us on the path to Absolute Zero Carbon? Click the image below to read and download the full paper.


As part of our larger Absolute Zero studies, Atelier Ten’s lighting design team has been at the forefront of the conversations regarding the embodied carbon impacts of lighting design fixtures. You can read more about that effort here: Illuminating Embodied Carbon: The Need for New Metrics in Lighting Design