Low-carbon Cladding options

Hi everyone,

We are doing a small study on low-carbon, low-maintenance, durable cladding options for a new institutional building and was wondering if anyone has recommendations for products we should include?

Happy to share results afterwards!

Thanks, Elizabeth

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There was an inquiry for clay/terracotta rainscreen data on the EC3 community forum site. https://forum.ec3.community/

I would add, as I did there, that it may be particularly helpful - though more work - to look at the whole assembly (including rails, clips, and possibly insulation options) as I could imagine that the metal support structure can be a major contributing factor of facade system carbon, and different cladding materials/products would require different support structures. And different levels of insulation thickness would also affect the amount of support structure.

Of course, I have a bias since I work in the masonry industry, but just about any masonry cladding could be included including a brick cavity wall, terra cotta rainscreen or natural stone cladding. These are all low maintenance and long lasting. This information could be helpful as there isn’t much hard data on the carbon content of these materials to this point. Older information such as from BEES didn’t include some of the improvement made in the industry. If you have any further questions, i would be glad to assist.

Hi Elizabeth,
A couple of less-common options that are biogenic (and therefore carbon storing) would be:

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Thanks so much for all the suggestions, I will check them all out.
And yes, it appears that some EPD’s include the full assembly and others don’t but we want to make sure it is comprehensive so we will include it.


I want to second Brian’s suggestion of natural stone as the low embodied carbon preference (I work in the natural stone industry so am grinding my own axe.) Attached are two studies that compare whole systems using natural stone vs brick, aluminum, steel and glass cladding systems - both are a bit dated (2010) but are done with rigor and an LCA approach:

  1. LIFE-CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF EXTERIOR CLADDING PRODUCTS - LCA Final Report- CladdingProducts - Jan 2010 Geibig UTenn.pdf (398.2 KB)
  2. Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Natural Stone and Glass Facades DNV-LCA -Natural_Stone vs Glass facades 2010.pdf (1.8 MB)
    Sorry to be a bit late here but hope these are useful - more work needs to be done on natural stone products.
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I would like to also recommend Accoya, a modified Radiata Pine, as a high-performance and highly sustainable material cladding option. Accoya is a Cradle to Cradle Gold Certified, is food grade safe, and offers a 50 year warranty for above ground applications - 25 years with ground-contact. The Radiata Pine has an average seed to harvest cycle of 28 years, and once Acetylated, offers a 60 year expected lifespan.

LCA data can be found here. Happy to share more info if that could be helpful.

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