Chicago–MaterialsCan (Carbon Action Network), a group of sustainability leaders in the built space that want to bring attention to the importance of embodied carbon, launched at Greenbuild 2018.
The group aims to provide those who own, lease, design or construct spaces with education and tools to better understand the carbon footprint of their projects, specifically through measuring the embodied carbon of specified materials. The group includes members of the building industry that are primed to act on the prioritization of embodied carbon in building materials–Interface (flooring), Gensler (design), Skanska (construction), Armstrong (ceilings), CertainTeed (insulation) and USG (wallboard).
“We need more ways to easily influence and impact the embodied carbon footprint of our projects,” said Kirsten Ritchie, Gensler’s director of sustainable design. “We recently delivered a project with a 43% reduction in embodied carbon by replacing our typical ‘go-to’ products with lower carbon footprint options that still met performance and all other project criteria. Our hope is that with the tools and resources provided by MaterialsCan, others will be able to easily make the same improvements.”
As a first critical step to enable measurement, Skanska and Microsoft created the Embodied Carbon Calculator for Construction (EC3), to be managed by the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum. The tool is in early beta demo now, and Interface is the industry lead sponsor. EC3 will be free and accessible to all.
“We pioneered the EC3 tool with Microsoft because of the lack of tools and product labels that reveal this information in a completely transparent and easy-to-compare way. materialsCAN, with the help of EC3, is the perfect platform for building awareness and education around an often missing, but wildly impactful metric,” said Stacy Smedley, director of sustainability for Skanska USA.
EC3 is said to highlight low-carbon providers and products. It allows architects, designers, builders, manufacturers and auditors to search construction materials by performance, location and global warming potential in a public searchable database based on environmental product declaration (EPD) data. Currently, there are about 17,000 materials in the database – including concrete, steels and gypsum. In its next iteration, EC3 will pull in EPDs for building enclosure and interior products and show variance among EPDs with differing product category rules.
“It’s always been incredibly hard to find and use a product’s carbon footprint,” said Lisa Conway, vice president of sustainability for Interface. “We find that most organizations have climate change goals. Prioritizing embodied carbon is a free way to make a significant and measurable impact.”