Imagining a More Sustainable Tomorrow

Imagining a More Sustainable Tomorrow

February 22, 2021

Sustainability is a key topic facing engineers both today and in the future. As structural engineers, we have become incredibly aware that the decisions we make on our project now can impact the world for years to come. While that reality has always existed for us to a point because we cast everything in concrete, it has become clear in recent years that the reach of our choices can have implications far beyond the building footprint.

Everything that humans create has a footprint, a carbon footprint. In structural engineering, a building’s footprints can be massive. Most of a building’s carbon footprint, or its embodied carbon, is contained in the materials we specify—concrete, steel, and wood. An engineer’s choice of what concrete mix design to use in a foundation for a building grossly outweigh their own decisions of whether or not to drive an electric car, for example. While this responsibility may seem daunting, it can also be extremely empowering. One simple choice for good can have long-term ramifications. Our choices can make a big difference.

For this reason, we have committed to do what we can to measure and then reduce this carbon on our projects. At Greenbuild 2020, the Structural Engineers 2050 (SE2050) Commitment officially launched. The SE2050 commitment encourages structural engineers to educate, engage, and report on the impacts of the built environment and embodied carbon. The fundamental goal is that all structural engineers shall understand, reduce, and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050.  

Walter P Moore is fully committed to this initiative and has been working to shape this program from its infancy. We believe whole-building life-cycle assessment should be included in the building design process and the embodied impacts treated as a performance metric for the building. After all, we cannot reduce what we do not measure. To further make the case for this and the importance of embodied carbon in construction, Walter P Moore focused the 2020 Stewardship Report on this critical subject of embodied carbon. We believe there is something we can do on every project, every time, and encourage our project teams to engage us in that challenge.  

To imagine a future for tomorrow, we have to make the right decisions today.

 

Kelly Roberts is a Principal and Project Manager in Walter P Moore’s Atlanta Structures group. She is an expert in structural sustainability with a focus on embodied carbon and building reuse.