Follow the Numbers: Driving Change with Data
by Anthony Hickling, Managing Director, Carbon Leadership Forum
Climate Change is trending. As people become more aware of the serious threats we face, concerned citizens and profiteers alike are offering solutions. As a result, we regularly hear about new ways to reduce our impact on the planet. From ban the bag campaigns, to electric cars and sustainable apparel, there’s no lack of options.
For buildings we face a similar landscape. As consumer demand and political action challenges us to build better for the sake of our future health and wellbeing, we’re increasingly hearing about new climate smart strategies. The problem is knowing what makes a real difference.
That’s where data comes in.
Since the early days of the Carbon Leadership Forum, our primary focus has been to drive robust data-informed research. What started out as a knowledge seeking campaign to understand the significance of embodied carbon has now evolved into a collective effort to identify impactful solutions and create systems to carry them out. Data is a crucial tool for action-- that’s why it’s a core pillar of our work.
And while data acts as a crucial beacon driving us towards a more sustainable future, we know it can always be improved. That’s why we continue researching, learning and sharing our findings (note the updated Material Baselines report further down), while simultaneously building tools and resources with what we have. With more data there are big opportunities on the horizon. We can:
- Identify optimal building designs to reduce embodied carbon.
- Drive a marketplace for materials that reduce embodied carbon.
- Inform policy makers, code developers, investors and other stakeholders on what makes the most significant impacts, and then translate that information into decision making.
CLF Building Reuse Webinar
Friday, April 16, 2021, 9-10:00 am PST
CLF works to avoid the embodied carbon emitted when we choose to tear down and replace existing buildings rather than preserve and transform them.
Join the CLF with guest speakers Larry Strain, Donald King and Kristian Kicinski to discuss building reuse. We’ll address embodied vs. operational carbon for new and renovated buildings, as well as the community considerations related to these development decisions.
Federal Policy Update
CLF and RMI Partner on Low-carbon Policy Recomendations for US General Services Administration
by Meghan Lewis
Senior Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum
In February of this year, the Green Building Advisory Committee (GBAC) approved the advice letter on procurement policy recommendations to reduce embodied carbon at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). This advice letter summarizes the policy recommendations of GBAC’s Embodied Energy Task Group (EETG) on how to reduce embodied energy and embodied carbon in federal building construction and renovation. The Carbon Leadership Forum collaborated with Victor Olgyay from RMI, co-chair of the EETG, and other EETG members to develop the letter throughout 2020 and present the letter to the GBAC this January. The advice letter can be found here: Policy Recommendations for Procurement of Low Embodied Energy and Carbon Materials by Federal Agencies (PDF).
In early March 2021, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce released an update to the CLEAN Future Act. According to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, this updated version “includes significant updates to the draft released in January 2020, reflecting more than a year’s worth of feedback from stakeholders, expert testimony received in Committee hearings, and the enactment of several previous provisions into law.” With regards to industrial decarbonization, this updated version expands upon existing plans to enact a federal Buy Clean program, further supporting embodied carbon reductions at the federal level.
To learn more about the GSA Letter, CLEAN Future Act, and other relevant federal initiatives, check out the newest addition to the CLF Policy Toolkit: Tracking Federal Action on Embodied Carbon.
Baseline Report January, 2021
Using Data to Support Designers, Owners, and Policymakers in Selecting Low-carbon Products During Procurement and Design
Stephanie Carlisle, Brook Waldman, Meghan Lewis, and Kate Simonen
The building industry has an essential role to play in tackling climate change associated with building construction and materials manufacturing. Our present understanding of the importance of embodied carbon has been enabled by rigorous quantitative modeling that tracks carbon emissions across the full life of materials and products, using life cycle assessment (LCA). In recent years, the building industry has adopted LCA as the globally accepted method for evaluating and communicating environmental impacts, and applied these methods to the study of materials, products, and assemblies. LCA data and results are essential for guiding science-based efforts to decarbonize buildings and infrastructure.
The Carbon Leadership Forum is part of a broad movement working to drive down the embodied carbon of building materials and products by encouraging the disclosure of high-quality embodied carbon data by manufacturers. It is essential that designers, owners, and policymakers have access to verified, third-party reviewed and published data on building materials and products in order to facilitate procurement decisions, set decarbonization targets, and inform design. One tool for achieving this goal has been the collection and use of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to inform decision-making.
The development of material baselines originated in support of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3). The EC3 Baselines were originally published in 2019. This document supersedes the baselines dated May 2020.
By The Numbers
The EC3 tool and its open-access database of digital EPDs are one source for accessing and evaluating available EPDs and the relative carbon impacts that they report. Such databases support designers, owners, and! policymakers in selecting low-carbon products during procurement and design. These databases are dynamic, updated constantly as new products are added and upstream data on key processes, such as carbon intensity of regional electricity grids, are revised.
PE, LEED AP ID+C, Senior Manager, Paladino and Company
Civil Engineer and Business Developer at One Click LCA
Design Director, Architect, LEED AP, Studio Gang
Community Engagement, Riseboro Community Partnership
Find out what steps our members are doing to address embodied carbon Learn More
Drawdown Building: New Frameworks
by Jacob Racusin
Design Studio Director and Director of Building Science and Sustainability, New Frameworks
New Frameworks is a worker-owned cooperative committed to a kinder sort of building. Locally sourced natural materials like native hardwood, clay, and stone soften our impact on the planet. Our ecologically-minded building practices and comprehensive, full-service systems design make our buildings at home on earth while providing state-of-the-art comfort and efficiency for the people that rely on them.
New Frameworks is part proof-of-concept business model, part activist organization, part mini-think tank for the work of climate justice in the built environment. Our mission is to implement regenerative practices to actualize the potential of an eco-centric business in a just and equitable society; we do this through innovative education, design, building, and collaboration. Our organizational structure is modeled after a rhizome – a horizontal stem of structure and support that feeds a series of aerial bodies fed by a network of roots.