News You Can Use

News You Can Use is a timely digest of webinars, events, recent news, research, resources, and discussion from across the building industry focused on driving the radical reduction of building construction and materials.

Written and updated by @martintorres, edited by Fred Bernstein

Recent News, Research, Resources, and Discussion

Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) news and media coverage.

How REIT Investors Can Drive Decarbonisation

#embodiedcarbon is a critical part of the carbon puzzle: it’s estimated that 74% of total emissions from new buildings between 2020 and 2030 will be from embodied carbon…At First Sentier Investors, the Global Property Securities team is taking a proactive approach to #decarbonising our portfolio of Real Estate Investment Trusts (#REITs) by setting a #netzeroemissions target. The REIT sector’s total assets are valued at over US$2 trillion, and as some of the largest landlords in the world, they have clear duty of care to help fight #climatechange…In our analysis, we take into account the embodied carbon of any building, with assumptions shared up and down the supply chain. Landlords are also increasingly accounting for the cost to the environment and including the carbon output into their project feasibility planning…” Stephen Hayes property securities

New report from Natural Resources Canada | Ressources naturelles Canada and Builders for Climate Action!

To date, actions to reduce #ghgemissions from the #builtenvironment focus entirely on #operationalemissions (#energyefficiency) , as with Canada’s performance tiers in the National Building Code. This study examines the scale and scope of those emissions arising from the manufacturing of building materials for the Canadian #homebuilding sector, and shows that annual emissions could be between 8-20 million tonnes for new homes. The report examines the impact of improving energy efficiency on #materialemissions and recommends a combined metric – #CarbonUseIntensity (CUI) – to capture a fuller picture of the #climateaction impact of Canadian homes. Chris Magwood

RMI launches two new works: Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings Report and the Concrete Solutions Guide as a part of their Embodied Carbon Initiative.

The Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings Report lays out low- and no-cost opportunities for reducing #embodiedcarbon in buildings and provides case studies that demonstrate an embodied carbon savings potential of up to 46% at less than 1% cost premium. Victor Olgyay Matt Jungclaus, P.E.Rebecca Esau, AIA Audrey Rempher

The Concrete Solutions Guide expands on the need to optimize concrete mixes to reduce overall embodied carbon in buildings and construction. The Guide highlights six proven and scalable solutions to meet the accelerating demand for low-embodied-carbon concrete without compromising financial or material performance. Valentina G., Charles Cannon and Lachlan Wright

Conversation about sustainable investments and decarbonizing the built environment

Marta Schantz, Senior Vice President of the Greenprint Center for Building Performance at the Urban Land Institute and CLF Board member chats with CREtech’s CEO Michael Beckerman about the industry’s recent appetite for sustainable investments and decarbonizing the built environment. Schantz also unpacks the work of ULI’s Greenprint Center and addresses what companies can do to advance their role in the #esgstrategy movement.

Green infrastructure and sustainable building materials

Dawn J. at Microsoft

“From the mountains of California to the Gulf Coast of Florida, the early part of my professional career was spent practicing geotechnical engineering and as a research hydrogeologist. In these roles, I focused on engineering hillside mitigation efforts and working on municipal water production and wastewater treatment projects. While working with small and local governments in coastal Florida, our challenge was to secure potable water while managing ‘reclaimed’ water for irrigation or subsurface storage (ASR), as well as handling wastewater for subsequent treatment. The #constructionprojects I was involved in were aimed at sustainable use of water within the context of supplying a necessary resource to a large metropolitan population. In a very real sense, the intersection of sustainability and construction is something I remain extremely passionate about. By extension, given that construction projects are significant consumers of goods produced from raw materials, #greeninfrastructure for construction remains one of the most critical investment areas for the world.” #embodiedcarbon

If we act together now, we can change the world!

Edward Mazria, CEO of Architecture 2030

Architecture 2030 is calling on all #architects, #engineers, #planners, and individuals involved in #buildingandconstruction worldwide to design all new projects, renovations, landscapes, cityscapes, and #infrastructure to be #zerocarbon starting now. If the community acts together today, we can mitigate and even prevent the worst effects of climate change. Our calling is, and has always been, to make the world a better place. Now is the time to step up and help protect life on this planet…I write this less than two weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its comprehensive and alarming Sixth Assessment Report on the state of the climate crisis. Meanwhile, brutal heat waves, droughts, deadly flooding, and fires are shattering world records and ravaging Europe, North America, China, and India—the regions currently responsible for 58% of global #co2emissions. The takeaways are clear: We are all in this together, and we must all act quickly and boldly. The time for half measures and outdated targets is over if we are to stop the irreparable destruction of our cities, towns, and natural environments. #climatecrisis #scienceandenvironment

Code red on climate change: is construction beyond the tipping point?

The international consensus is clear: the time to radically slash carbon emissions is now. But is the industry doing enough? Urgent analysis in the UK’s Construction News.

Driven by the urgency of warnings from scientists about the #climatecrisis, #carbonreduction pledges have come thick and fast from contractors in recent years. The UK Government has mandated that the country becomes #netzero2050, meaning all sectors and businesses must take action.

Paul King says: “If we look ahead to 2050, 50 per cent of the #carbonemissions associated with new buildings come from the so-called #embodiedcarbon, the carbon that goes into the #steel, #concrete and other materials that go into our buildings, which at the moment isn’t regulated at all. Each accounts for 7 to 8 per cent of global #greenhousegasemissions, so unless we start to regulate the use of those materials in terms of the #embodiedcarbon impact, we are missing the proverbial elephant in the room."

Environmental Justice and Real Estate

Urban Land Institute

#environmentaljustice and #realestate: Perspectives from Leading Community-Based and Advocacy Organizations features interviews with leaders from the Fifth Avenue Committee, Catalyst Miami, Initiative for Energy Justice, and The Greenlining Institute, and seeks to elevate these perspectives to help #builtenvironment professionals address the effects of #structuralracism and #communitydisinvestment through the perspective of environmental justice. Environmental justice has become a key policy lens to examine and address how low-income communities and #communitiesofcolor have been disproportionately affected by real estate and #landdevelopment & use decisions and #environmentalhazards.”

Can we reboot office buildings as data centers?

Can the tech sector help reduce #embodiedcarbon emissions by an astonishing amount merely by #repurposing/ #reusing existing buildings? Maybe.

“Simply knocking it down and building something else is the typical solution for property that has become obsolete, though the waste of materials and the embodied carbon this represents is becoming much less acceptable. If only there was some wealthy, space-hungry group of building users, keenly aware of the need to manage their carbon footprint, just waiting to occupy all that empty property…As in other sectors, as #operationalcarbon emissions come down, the embodied carbon of buildings will account for a greater proportion of the total, and this too will drive interest in reusing existing structures rather than meeting demand with new #construction alone.”

Reducing Embodied Carbon in Construction


This report offers an inside look into how Microsoft is reducing emissions and water during the construction of new buildings and data centers at their Puget Sound headquarters to be carbon negative by 2030.

Microsoft interviewed Skanska’s Stacy Smedley, Mark J. Chen and Nicholas Pemper to discuss the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (#EC3) tool, a free, open-access database (first incubated by Carbon Leadership Forum and now developed by Building Transparency ), which allows building design and construction teams to directly compare #EPDs against each other and select products based on their emissions performance criteria. The construction team also discusses the process for tracking and reducing construction site activity emissions and water.

“The thing we like most about EC3 is the commitment to be free and open access—the data is democratized making it easier for companies and organizations to use it to inform decisions.” — Katie Ross, Microsoft Real Estate & Facilities

#BuildingWhatMatters #CarbonFootprint #Sustainability #CarbonNegative #ZeroCarbon #ZeroWaste

Surfside’s collapse highlights the dangers of ‘solutions-aversion,’ like ignoring climate change

"“I think if we recognize that, since there’s a #publicsafety issue that goes in direct competition to the financial interest of #buildingowners, it falls right in the role of civic government,” structural engineer and architect, Professor and Chair of Architecture at the University of Washington Kate Simonen explained in an extensive interview. She’s also Executive Director of the Carbon Leadership Forum.

To address the potentially dangerous challenge, Simonen suggested that a city ordinance “would put more teeth, which would then give the requirements and maybe some timeframe to acting so that it would mandate.” That means, Simonen added, “Rather than waiting for everybody to vote, they would just actually have to act. ‘In order for our building not to get condemned, we have to do this work by this date,’ ” even if the increased cost causes some of the condo owners financial distress or even to sell their condos.

Embodied carbon: next steps for GSA

Major embodied carbon news at the federal level: GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance #greenbuildings recently facilitated a two-day roundtable of #policymakers and practitioners to identify specific, actionable steps GSA can take to reduce the embodied carbon in the agency’s design and construction projects.

#Buildings and #Constructionmaterials are responsible for 40% of #carbonemissions, making them the fourth largest global contributor,” said GSA Acting Chief Architect Charles Hardy AIA, CCM, impressing upon the group a sense of urgency and setting the stage for the roundtable.

Discussions began with two key policy recommendations from GSA’s Green Building Advisory Committee in February 2021 to address procurement of low #embodiedcarbon materials : 1) A material approach for all projects requiring #environmental product declarations (environmental impact information about products that can be compared for items fulfilling the same function). 2) A whole building life cycle assessment (#LCA) approach for larger projects. Don Horn, FAIA, LEED Fellow #buildingmaterials #buildingdesign

Opinion: The world needs better climate pledges

Is making a #netzerocarbon pledge enough? How can we hold companies and governments truly accountable for the radical #emissionreduction required to meet the carbon crisis? Thanks much to Project Drawdown’s Jonathan Foley for this insightful essay.

"Governments and businesses are looking to lead on #climatechange, but too many of their commitments are built on flawed ‘net zero’ frameworks and problematic “#carbonoffsets.” Authentic climate leadership requires more—a transparent and meaningful “Emissions 360” pledge that is focused on bringing real emissions to zero, helping others do the same, and equitably addressing historic climate pollution.

“A lot of companies have made dubious climate commitments using accounting tricks—usually relying on problematic “carbon offsets” to make the books look better than they are. And what’s worse: Of the #fortune500companies that have made public net-zero commitments, only ~20% have robust frameworks, and very few are reporting their progress. Many #carbonoffsets are problematic. Unfortunately, net-zero pledges have become so distorted they allow for any combination of emissions cuts and carbon offsets to reach their goal. In fact, one can claim net-zero emissions by only buying carbon offsets — without actually reducing emissions at all. This is a carbon shell game, not a real commitment to climate action.” Chad Frischmann

Buy Clean Colorado

“Global Warming Potential for Public Project Materials,” otherwise known by its nickname, Buy Clean Colorado, has been signed into law by #Colorado Governor Jared Polis in the wake of its journey through both houses of the Colorado legislature. The bill, HB21-1303 requires the office of the state architect and the department of transportation to “establish policies regarding the global warming potential for specific categories of eligible materials used to construct certain public projects,” and “establish a maximum acceptable #globalwarmingpotential for each category of eligible material used in certain public projects under its purview.”

This is a big deal. Understanding #embodiedcarbon requires the calculation of GHG emissions related to building materials and construction, and the new Colorado law requires reporting and reduction of the carbon footprint for all materials used in publicly-funded construction. This is a significant step to decarbonizing the building industry, supported by technical advice and consultation from Carbon Leadership Forum. Congratulations to bill sponsors Tracey Bernett, Barbara Mclachlan, and Chris Hansen, and to Sierra Club and BlueGreen Alliance Foundation for their support of this effort.

#buildingmaterials #climatechange #construction

Embodied carbon: the elephant in the net zero room

Excellent interview by David Thorpe with Chris Magwood

Local Hubs

CLF now has regional hubs in Alberta, Atlanta, Austin, Australia, Austria, Bengalaru, Boston, Cairo, Calgary, Chicago, Denver/Boulder, Hong Kong, Iceland, London, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New York City, Omaha, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington DC, and Yellowstone. Join or start a regional hub now to help expand our network.