Building with Biomass
by Kate Simonen, Founder and Executive Director, Carbon Leadership Forum
What if instead of emitting carbon, factories drew down carbon from the atmosphere and stored it in building materials? What if instead of shipping materials around the world we develop regional supply chains connecting rural and urban economies? What if building was a major solution to climate change?
We believe this future is possible; what is lacking is the social infrastructure necessary to catalyze the development and adoption of biogenic building materials (both sustainably produced wood materials plus many others including products made from agricultural waste straws etc.). In order to support the systemic change this future requires, we must develop processes to ensure we can both meet decarbonization goals AND achieve broad environmental justice objectives.
The Carbon Leadership Forum along with our partners Building Transparency, the Endeavor Center and the Living Materials Lab at CU Boulder are excited to have our bold proposal recognized as one of five finalists for the $10 million 2030 Climate Challenge. As we refine the proposal that focuses on supporting regional action through the creation of industry toolkits we are increasingly optimistic about the potential impact that a project like this could enable and excited to learn how to reframe our approaches to foreground environmental justice.
This month’s newsletter features recent work we’ve recently published with this team. And for those of you looking to learn more about what carbon storying materials are available/emerging,don’t miss the great Carbon Storing Materials report that includes an index of over 70 established and emerging carbon storing materials assessed for their impact and market viability within the full downloadable report.
CLF Happy Hour: Action from the Ground Up!
Friday, March 12, 2021, 9-10:00 am PST
Connect with your peers around the world for this informal, digitally-distanced social extravaganza to build relationships with other CLF members from a bevy of backgrounds, including an assignation of architects, a shrewdness of structural engineers, a pandemonium of policy wonks, and a cascade of consultants from a convocation of companies and an orchestra of organizations. Hear the latest news from CLF and have a conversation with a compatriot you’ve never met. Connect with other members of the CLF community to explore and share actions people can/are taking to address embodied carbon action either at their companies, or in their local communities/governments.
Built Environment Summit to be held before COP26
Special Announcement for the UN Climate Change Conference from the Royal Institute of British Architects, with Architecture 2030 and Architects Declare
On October 27th-29th, 2021, the Royal Institute of British Architects, with Architecture 2030 and Architects Declare, will host a Built Environment Summit at the home of the RIBA in central London. The live event will be webcast to a worldwide audience.
The built environment’s contribution to achieving zero global carbon emissions by 2040 is critical. Right now our buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. And when accounting for the carbon embodied in all associated infrastructure, that figure is substantially higher. Our industry is taking significant action to work within the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit above pre-industrial levels. By showing what is possible, we will embolden governments to do the same.
Backed by Royal Institute of British Architects, Architecture 2030 and Architects Declare, and supported by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction and American Institute of Architects, we are a coalition of over 100,000 (and growing) architecture, planning, engineering and construction professionals across the world.
We’re calling on the world’s governments to provide the necessary support and legislation to accelerate the systemic change in our industry to stay within the 1.5°C carbon budget. We will build consensus for a declaration across 2021, culminating in its final debate and ratification at the Built Environment Summit in London, the week before COP26. Then at COP26 in Glasgow, we will serve our declaration to the governments of the world to call for the change our collective future demands.
The Declaration will affirm the industry’s continued commitment to rapidly reduce its carbon emissions, and that now is the time for Governments to set targets in line with the remaining 1.5ºC aligned global carbon budget.
Over the next 30 years…
Embodied carbon, namely emissions associated with the procurement, manufacturing, construction use, and disposal of building materials, is predicted to account for almost 50% of all new construction-related carbon emissions (Architecture 2030). Driving down embodied carbon requires a complete system
Simple material substitution made to general specifications and low-carbon material procurement strategies can yield a 20% reduction in embodied carbon compared to the baseline WBLCA.
Buildings as a Solution: Exploring Potential for Carbon-Storage
The Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington has recently completed a four-month research project with a major US tech company to understand the potential of using low-carbon and carbon-storing materials in new construction. The project focused on carbon-intensive hotspot materials (e.g., concrete foundations and slab floors, insulated roof and wall panels, and structural framing) in light industrial buildings. The study found that a sizable reduction (~60%) in embodied carbon is possible in two to three years by bringing readily-available low-carbon materials into wider use.
We can convert buildings from an existential climate threat (emissions source) to a significant climate solution (emissions sink) by using biogenic materials that store carbon and reduce emissions during the production of construction materials. Emissions sinks are crucial to achieving decarbonization by 2030 because carbon has a time value; the impact of photosynthetic drawdown exerts the most impact at the beginning of the building process. – Report Authors: Julie Kriegh, Chris Magwood, Wil Srubar
By The Numbers
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has established that reductions in carbon emissions alone are not enough to curtail climate disaster. Therefore, it is crucial that we systematically draw down and store carbon. Fostering a carbon-storing ecosystem by investing in the development and manufacturing of nascent carbon-storing materials industries will make a carbon-positive future possible in three to five years. Check out the full Carbon-Storing Materials report from CLF. Biogenically sourced material feedstocks that can store carbon range from bamboo and timber to regional grain straw (wheat, rice, oat, barley, sorghum, spelt, etc.); pithy agricultural waste (sunflower, tobacco, collard greens, sunchoke, etc.) – and many more.
Shubhada Gadkar - Engineer, National Ready Mixed Concrete Co.
Martin Torres - Structural Engineer: Austin Energy Green Building; LeMessurier
Caitlin Hart - Sr. Program Manager, Boston Society for Architecture (BSA)
Jeff Thiel - Business and investment analyst, software founder/exec
Find out what steps our members are doing to address embodied carbon
Introducing Meghan Lewis
by Meghan Lewis
Senior Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum
I was first introduced to life cycle assessment while studying architecture at the ‘other’ Washington University (in St. Louis). A fall seminar on Decoding Sustainable Materials became the gateway to a lifelong passion for investigating sustainable materials and supply chains. Unlike in design studios, where we were mostly left to apply materials like paint in a rendering, the seminar encouraged us to dive into the seemingly endless list of criteria for assessing the sustainability of a material. I found that researching materials appealed not only to my love for complex systems thinking, but also my love for travel: a single material can simultaneously connect us with hundreds of years of history and thousands of workers from towns or entire countries we may never visit.