EPD data-fueled embodied carbon tool debuts at Greenbuild

Sources: Carbon Leadership Forum, Seattle; CP staff

The Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF), a University of Washington College of Built Environments-hosted coalition of architecture, engineering and construction stakeholders, formally launched the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool in public beta version at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Atlanta. Embodied carbon volumes reflect carbon dioxide emissions attributable to material or product processing, fabrication, delivery, and erection or placement. 

The open-access EC3 taps the industry’s first database of digitized Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). It allows architects, engineers, owners, contractors, building material suppliers and policy makers to easily evaluate and reduce embodied carbon in project specifications. Construction stakeholders, notes CLF Director and Professor Kate Simonen, need “to turn their attention to building materials and seek information that will pave the way to reduce embodied carbon. Recognizing this imperative, the Carbon Leadership Forum and nearly 50 industry leaders came together to offer their expertise, committed to a tool that was free to use and part of a growing open-access embodied carbon data ecosystem.” 

Building and construction sectors have a vital role to play in limiting carbon, she adds, as they account for nearly 40 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The scale of emissions is indicated in projections from the American Institute of Architects-aligned Architecture 2030 initiative: From 2020-2060, the world’s population will double the amount of enclosed floor space—equivalent to building an entire New York City every month for 40 years. Much of the new buildings’ environmental footprint will take the form of embodied carbon. Unlike operational carbon emissions, which can be reduced over time with energy-efficiency retrofits and the use of renewable sources, CLF officials underscore how embodied carbon emissions are locked in place as soon as a building is completed. 

EC3 is billed as the first free tool that allows for supply chain-specific analysis of embodied carbon data, utilizing the first searchable and sortable database of all United States and Canadian EPD for concrete, steel, wood, glass, aluminum, insulation, gypsum, carpet and ceiling tiles. EC3 is revolutionizing the EPD process, CLF contends: It is the first tool to create a digital EPD and translate all declarations into that form for viewing and analyzing the data. EPD users have traditionally been confined to referencing declarations formatted as pdf. By enabling simple visualization of a project’s potential and realized embodied carbon impacts—along with the ability to see baselines and set reduction targets—EC3 users can accelerate the industry’s efforts to address embodied carbon on a global scale. 


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