Forum supplies policymakers tools to cut embodied carbon in new construction

The University of Washington-hosted Carbon Leadership Forum focused on an array of resources to support development of federal, state or local policies on embodied carbon in construction specifications and projects. Capping 2020 efforts earlier this year, it released the Embodied Carbon Policy Toolkit, offering public officials and industry professionals a carefully designed package to guide decarbonization efforts from Main Street to Washington, D.C.

SOURCE: Carbon Leadership Forum, University of Washington

Embodied carbon policies take a variety of forms, depending on the level of government involvement and scope of behavior a policy is intended to address. Among examples: Procurement policies (like Buy Clean and material-specific variations); building codes; city zoning, land use, plus building regulations and incentives, including facility and material reuse policies; and, executive orders addressing embodied carbon of building and industrial sector emissions.

“We already know how to create energy-efficient buildings, and have made good progress on the energy side of the equation,” says CLF Founder and Executive Director Kate Simonen. “Reducing the impact of building materials and construction—as much as or more than 50 percent of the life cycle carbon of a building—is both important and under-addressed. We must act now to implement effective low-embodied carbon policies and practices. Emissions released now are more critical than emissions released later.” —

The Structural Engineers 2050 Commitment Program (SE 2050) provides members with the resources to contribute and track projects toward the vision of net-zero embodied carbon structures by mid-century. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Structural Engineering Institute program answers the Carbon Leadership Forum SE 2050 Challenge, wherein “All structural engineers shall understand, reduce and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050.”

In response, the ASCE Structural Engineering Institute Sustainability Committee has been developing the first national program aimed at member commitments to achieve net-zero embodied carbon structures over the next three decades. The SE 2050 Commitment has Plan, Implement and Share strategies. After formal sign on, participants need to create an Embodied Carbon Action Plan covering education, reporting, reduction strategies and advocacy goals. Firms will then implement plans with the support of educational resources and tools accessible through After adequate metrics have been collected for different regions and building types in a SE 2050 database, embodied carbon benchmarks and reduction targets will be developed. — American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, Va.,