The front of the building of 609 Main at Texas Avenue in Houton, Texas is a beautiful glass and steel facade shown here at dusk with a warm glow emerging from the entrance.


Embodied Carbon: A Clearer View of Carbon Emissions

18 August 2020 Dirk Kestner

The design community is making great strides to create buildings that are more energy efficient, but we must also consider the upfront emissions from building construction—embodied carbon.


While operational emission reductions are often celebrated, embodied emissions have been largely overlooked. Embodied emissions include emissions associated with extracting, processing, shipping, installing, and maintaining the materials used in our buildings. These emissions occur before a building opens rather than operational emissions that happen over a building’s life span.

Embodied carbon urgency

The UN Environment Global Status Report predicts that during the next 40 years, we will build 2.5 trillion square feet of new building stock. Comparatively, this amount of construction is the equivalent of replicating New York City every month for 40 years. To reach the greenhouse gas targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we must significantly reduce the embodied carbon of buildings constructed during the next 10 years and reach net zero embodied and operational carbon soon after. Addressing this urgent environmental challenge will require cross-disciplinary collaboration, client education, industry advocacy, development of carbon benchmarks, and innovative low-carbon solutions.

Stewardship report

Our team of experts, comprised of specialists in structural materials, green infrastructure, and enclosure design, built this stewardship report to address an urgent issue—embodied carbon. Our contributors, who are often recognized in the industry through awards and speaking opportunities, embrace and value the challenges that come alongside developing integrated solutions for high-performance buildings and infrastructure that utilizes resources responsibly. Continue the conversation by downloading the embodied carbon report and by contacting us for further engagement.

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