Environment Future Building

Embodied Carbon in Construction

Watched Embodied Carbon Lunch and Learn

Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions that result from the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials. Embodied carbon is a significant percentage of global emissions and requires urgent action to address it.

Please join Stacy Smedley, the Executive Director with Building Transparency, and a subject matter expert on carbon emissions associated with buildings and construction, to learn more about embodied carbon in materials, why it is important and tools to reduce the embodied carbon in building materials and infrastructure. Stacy will also touch on the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator co-sponsored by King County. She will be joined by Karen Hamilton, Environmental Purchasing Program Manager at King County, who will tell us about the commitments in the King County Strategic Climate Action Plan to reduce embodied carbon in King County Projects starting in 2022.

King Co Strategic Climate Action Plan – reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating resilient communities

Consumption and Materials Management

  • circular economy
  • zero waste of resources
  • sustainable materials (low embodied carbon building materials & build markets for recycled content materials)

Climate Change Current State

2041-2060: do everything right > 1.6 degrees C; business as usual > 2.4 degrees C

In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations higher than any point in the last 2 million years

Sources of emissions related to construction

  • Building materials and construction = 11% of global CO2 emissions by sector
  • Building operations = 28% by sector (“operational carbon”)
  • Manufacturing = 31% of GHG from human activities (of that, cement = 19%, iron and steel = 19%)

Embodied Carbon

Building Transparency – non-profit creating embodied carbon construction calculator (EC3)

Embodied carbon = materials extraction, transportation, replacement during building life, end of life use

Embodied carbon = about half a building’s carbon footprint

Embodied carbon can’t be reduced like operational carbon can be — it’s locked in once used

Whole building lifecycle analysis – compare materials at high level before building – then use the calculator once you’ve chosen materials to get the lowest carbon

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) = 3rd party verified enviro impact for a material or product

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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