Breakthrough Embodied Carbon Tool for Construction Only A First Step Toward Market Transformation

Statement from Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough in response to the public launch of the free Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) at the USGBC Greenbuild Conference in Atlanta this week:

“A huge congratulations are in order for everyone at the Carbon Leadership Forum who has worked diligently over the last year to make this tool ready for primetime and—importantly—free and accessible. It’s a testament to their commitment to the issue of embodied carbon and to how well they have channeled their collective expertise to make an impact. Skanska USA and Microsoft deserve special credit for being the pioneers in using this tool and working hard to perfect it.

“The ability for design and construction professionals to leverage Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) so they can analyze which products have the lowest embodied carbon and use them in their projects is something we called for in our Construction Destruction report, released at Greenbuild last year in Chicago. This ability is an important and necessary early step, but we also called for the construction industry to begin making companywide asks of their steel and other materials suppliers to do away with industry average EPDs and adopt product- and site-specific ones. Most importantly, we called upon Skanska, Clark Construction, AECOM, Turner Construction, Lendlease, and all the other top builders to explicitly demand public plans for decarbonization from the steel companies they buy from.

“It’s not enough to buy good products, you have to be able to buy good products from a good company. Otherwise, there will not be enough incentive for steel producers to build the critical mass they need for industry wide decarbonization, and bad actors will continue to escape accountability without fear of losing business.

“In October, the top design firms all gathered in Chicago at the behest of Architecture 2030 and set a goal of 65 percent reduction in embodied carbon from construction of buildings and infrastructure by 2030. This goal was set to align with a 1.5-degree scenario and is incredibly ambitious and necessary since construction uses most of the world’s steel, concrete, and aluminum. Those materials alone account for 22 percent of global emissions. We are going to need all kinds of technical solutions like EC3 to tackle this enormous challenge, but more than anything we are going to need driven, creative, and courageous professionals in the design and construction world to act each day with greater urgency—and demand more than they have before from themselves and each other.”