Lincoln Barbour Bluestone Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Va., features "net-zero ready" design.

On Jan. 31, thought leaders and practitioners focused on sustainability and carbon sequestration in school design and construction will gather at the Yale School of Architecture, in New Haven, Conn., to discuss emergent technologies and best practices. Ahead of the Net Zero Schools Summit: Innovations Toward Carbon Neutral Construction event, hosted by AIA Connecticut in collaboration with the Connecticut Green Building Council and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, ARCHITECT spoke with NRMCA executive vice president Gregg Lewis, AIA, about the summit agenda and the importance of embodied carbon in institutional design.

ARCHITECT: What can attendees expect to learn at the summit?
Lewis: Architectural and engineering design are clearly the mainstay of this event. But no matter how well we design our buildings from an energy efficiency standpoint, our building materials include a lot of embodied carbon, which is a direct result of the energy needed to generate or produce a given building material. Clearly a net-zero school, once built, is going to perform on a very high level from an energy efficiency standpoint. We're going to go through a building life cycle analysis from an embodied energy standpoint and a use phase energy standpoint.

We're talking about not only the building performance, but also how the materials that are going to be used in that building ultimately contribute to the total carbon that’s needed to produce the building.

How did you come up with the list of speakers?
Everyone that’s on the list for this program is a thought leader. We're going to hear from the folks that are driving this conversation nationally and globally around embodied carbon. Kenny Stanfield, AIA, of Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, in Louisville, Ky., is going to present the design of the very first net-zero school in the country; his firm has designed several since that first school 11 years ago. Mechanical engineer Tony Hans with CMTA Engineers, in Prospect, Ky., has found a bunch of novel, cost-effective ways to drive energy performance to this net-zero level.

If we want to see the path forward in a positive way, these are the folks that are going to lead us where we need to be.

Will those unable to attend the event in person be able to access resources from the summit afterwards?
Absolutely. This will be the beginning of an ongoing conversation about these topics. I anticipate we will have video content and other materials and information specifically from the event.

Why is it important to have this conversation now?
Net-zero schools in Connecticut are going to be something we're going to see a whole lot more of. Our hope is that we can begin to prime the pump to see a more dramatic uptake of this approach for school and public building construction in the state.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.