by Kate Simonen, Founder and Executive Director, Carbon Leadership Forum
Just over a year ago the Carbon Leadership Forum issued the SE 2050 Challenge stating: “All structural engineers shall understand, reduce and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050.”
When we first considered this proposition several years earlier it seemed too bold to be possible. Today, dozens of structural engineering firms (both large and small) have signed onto a commitment program only made possible by dozens of individual volunteers collaborating together to define pathways to meaningful action.
We can “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Thanks, Magaret Mead!) The Carbon Leadership Forum strategy of incubating member-led initiatives to eliminate embodied carbon is paying off! We are so proud to see the growth of the SE 2050 program and expansion of the EC3 tool. Both were incubated at the CLF and both are now thriving independent initiatives.
Don’t doubt that a small group can change the world. Don’t forget that it’s through our collective action this change is possible. We all have our role to play. Find your group. Find your role. Play with enthusiasm, persistence and joy!
Lindsay Rasmussen Sr. Program Manager, Architecture 2030
Brian McSweeney Structural Engineer, TLC Engineering
Louise Hamot Lifecycle Research, Integral Group
Luke Lombardi Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
Find out what our members are doing to address embodied carbon Learn More
The discussion topic: Reducing Embodied Carbon Through Building Reuse
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 orgy 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.
In the fall of 2019, CLF issued the SE2050 Challenge, which was then adopted by the Board of Governors of SEI, which then agreed to host the SE 2050 Commitment Program:
All structural engineers shall understand, reduce and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050. “We, the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), support the vision and ambition of the SE 2050 Challenge. We, as a leading structural engineering organization in the United States, recognize the need for coordinated action across our profession to achieve the globally stated goal of net zero carbon by 2050.”
The Structural Engineering Institute’s (SEI) Structural Engineering (SE) 2050 Commitment Program was officially launched to the public six months ago at Greenbuild 2020. Since its inception, the Program’s goal is to provide an accessible sustainability program for individual structural engineers and firms, with an accountable commitment strategy of active engagement on projects and sharing of information, all in the name of achieving net-zero carbon structures by 2050. Almost 40 firms across North America have officially joined the Program during the past six months, the embodied carbon database is nearing public release, and the SE 2050 Program will soon publish new resources and tools.
As we celebrate Earth Day and appreciate all that it provides for us, we are reminded of the importance of doing our part to create a more sustainable environment, and what better way than to commit to net zero embodied carbon in our structural systems.
– Forell Elsesser Structural Engineers
Corporate embodied carbon policies may vary depending on the company and their portfolio. For example, investors can set a policy to only invest in buildings with a certain embodied carbon intensity whereas tenants can set a policy to only rent from buildings below a certain embodied carbon threshold while creating policies for the design and procurement of their fit-outs. These policies can take different forms, such as:
- Company-wide sustainability commitments, such as net-zero or supply chain (purchasing) emissions reductions targets and internal carbon pricing initiatives.
- Company-wide green building policies and initiatives, such as certification requirements, design standards, or material selection requirements for new construction or tenant fit-outs that apply across a company’s portfolio; and
- Sustainable procurement policies, such as minimum sustainability requirements for suppliers.
Companies can think of embodied carbon action at three different scales: product, project, and portfolio.
Embodied Carbon Intensity Diagram (ECID) for Structural Engineers
The SE 2050 Committee developed this diagram to compare some typical framing schemes for various building types. The main intent of the diagrams is educational, and to provide a range of embodied carbon values for the analyzed bays to inform the practicing structural engineer of embodied carbon intensity for framing schemes considered typical.