Webinar Recap: Decarbonization

Embodied carbon. What is it? And how do we discuss and mitigate its impact?

Gregory Kingsley, PhD, PE and Victoria Herrero-Garcia shared their expertise of embodied carbon and its effect on the built environment during a recent AIA Colorado webinar.

How is embodied carbon defined? From our panelists’ discussion, the Carbon Leadership Forum provides this definition, “Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials.” It is also known as Global Warming Potential and includes emissions from all six main greenhouse gases.

But, here is the challenge: Embodied carbon is an urgent threat due to its pre-building occupancy relationship in the lifecycle cost assessment. Once construction and related activities are complete, reducing embodied carbon is moot. Reinforcing this urgency, the State of Colorado is leading the legislative way by introducing embodied carbon policy.

Who are the major stakeholders and decision makers that can directly affect embodied carbon? Owners, architects, general contractors, and structural engineers. It is imperative to have this conversation with the owner, sharing pros, cons, and effects.

Which materials are in this embodied carbon conversation? Concrete, steel and wood. There are several alternatives to consider, but wood (mass timber) is known as the most likely way to reduce embodied carbon, yet the costs are currently higher. If steel, then reusing steel enables a cost nullification and fair reduction of global warming potential. It is recommended to use supplementary cementitious materials in lieu of concrete.

Reducing embodied carbon takes a team and informed approach. Architects can talk with clients and engage contractors and structural engineers early in the process. Consider building reuse instead of new construction. Regardless, start the conversation to see transformation.

About the Author

JP Arnold

JP Arnold, LEED Green Associate, APR, is Marketing and Business Development Manager at Bridgers & Paxton. He is an AIA Colorado Allied Member and is a member of the Editorial Committee.

Arnold is a retired U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) and Signal Officer. As a PAO, he worked with more than 150 media engagements around the world to include The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Newsweek, NBC News, along with Seattle and Colorado Springs media markets. He worked on the National Army Marketing and Advertising Recruiting Campaign alongside Weber Shandwick PR and McCann Erickson Ad Agency.

He is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communication from Ouachita Baptist University and Middle Tennessee State University (Phi Kappa Phi Honors). He has been married for more than 20 years to his wife and they have two children and several pets.

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