About 186 billion square metres of buildings worldwide are set to be built or undergo renovations between 2015 and 2050, according to Architecture 2030, a non-profit research organisation, and this may lead to increased embodied carbon emissions.
However, the EC3 tool, a calculator of embodied carbon in construction introduced in September 2019, initially conceived by Skanska, a construction group, is reducing embodied carbon emissions up to 30% in developments participating in their pilot, without significant added financial impacts.
Beth Heider, USA chief sustainability officer at Skanska, says with the Paris Climate Accord’s global carbon reduction targets set, the aim of the EC3 tool is to align with the accord by helping the building industry reduce their embodied carbon emissions.
She says the tool’s open-source database of 16 000 construction materials, based on environmental data, is searchable by material performance needs and design specifications, and calculates the carbon emissions of building materials.
“Building industry professionals can use the tool to view material carbon emissions data, so they can examine data of common building materials and can work together to create an overall lower embodied carbon footprint before a development is operational. This allows stakeholders to understand a project’s potential environmental impact and can lead to carbon-smart choices during material specification and procurement throughout the building process,” she says.
Stacy Smedley, director of sustainability at Skanska USA and initiator of the tool, says until recently, there was a lack of data or data was too complex to evaluate, with few tools or benchmarks available to create awareness of the embodied carbon opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of a structure before it is operational.
She says the building industry did not have a way to assess their supply chain according to the carbon impact, as traditional assessments of a building’s emissions and lifecycle costs mainly focussed on energy efficiency or the operational carbon of a structure.
Development and support
The EC3 tool conceived by Smedley and the Carbon Leadership Forum, a professional community focused on reducing carbon embodied in building materials, was developed with C Change Labs, a software developer.
The development of the tool was at first jointly seed-funded by a second Skanska Innovation Grant and by Microsoft, a technology company, while further financial support to accelerate the development of the tool came from organisations supporting innovation advancements in the built environment.
According to Smedley, society only has a short time to reduce carbon emissions and with the EC3 tool, people better understand the emissions footprint of the structures they build and how they are built, which creates a course towards urgently reducing embodied carbon emissions. She says if the carbon embodied in developments is not addressed immediately, it may not even matter how efficiently buildings are operated in the future.
“The EC3 tool democratises data, provides transparency for the building industry and leverages on how professionals in the industry naturally plan and estimate their work, enabling them to reduce their carbon footprint on projects to develop an even more sustainable future. We are proud to empower our team to address this need head-on, by using our high-tech solution to make a difference in the way buildings are constructed,” says Smedley.
For more information on the EC3 tool, visit www.carbonleadershipforum.org.
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