CLF
  February 2022

Effort and Impact

by Kate Simonen, Executive Director, Carbon Leadership Forum

At the Carbon Leadership Forum we envision a transformed, decarbonized building industry – better buildings for a better planet. We’re so proud that Andrew Himes, our Director of Collective Impact was selected to create an inspiring TEDx talk. This is a good one to share with your friends and family to help them understand how “buildings can help us solve the challenge of climate change with elegance and innovation. We can decarbonize materials like steel and concrete, store carbon in biogenic materials, and reuse or recycle buildings and materials rather than throwing them away."

To achieve the system-wide, structural change needed, we must be strategic with our efforts. This month’s newsletter highlights four key strategies that the CLF uses to scale our impact:

  • Community — Another inspiring group of CLF members sharing their impacts
  • Data — Analysis of material benchmarks for California’s Buy Clean policy
  • Initiatives — The MEP 2040 Challenge gains traction
  • Resources — The AIA-CLF Embodied Carbon Toolkit for Architects

We believe that collaboration is essential and we’re so grateful to those of you who’ve stepped up to work towards these shared goals: volunteering to develop local CLF hubs, sharing ideas and information on the CLF’s community forum, and identifying ways to increase embodied carbon awareness and action in practice today.

Warm regards

Kate

Change Our Buildings, Save Our Planet

 

CLF's Andrew Himes Calls for System-wide Transformation at TEDxSeattle

Andrew Himes’ 2021 TEDxSeattle talk is an impassioned plea for buildings that help solve climate change instead of contributing to it. With a sense of hope, Andrew asserts that working together to solve the climate crisis gives us the opportunity to “regain a sense of our shared humanity.”

As Andrew explains, the materials used in construction, the movement of those materials, and the current massive building boom combine to make the buildings in which we live and work one of the leading causes of carbon emissions. The good news is that we already know how to create buildings that store carbon and help heal the planet. We can reuse and improve buildings instead of tearing down or using new materials, and we can all demand that the buildings in our community are built to protect us instead of harm us.

Watch and Share the Video
Member Impact  

Stefan Knust
Director of Sustainability,
Ennead Architects

Christina Bjarvin
Research Assistant, Carbon Leadership Forum

Sarah King
Senior Vice President, Sustainability at Kilroy Realty

Prajin (Zing) Uttamchandani
Student Assistant, Carbon Leadership Forum

Find out what our members are doing to address embodied carbon
Learn More
Buy Clean California Limits  

A Proposed Methodology for Setting Industry-Average GWP Limits for Steel, Mineral Wool, and Flat Glass

​by Meghan Lewis, Senior Policy Researcher for the Carbon Leadership Forum

The Buy Clean California Act (BCCA), the first “Buy Clean" policy introduced in the United States, requires the California Department of General Services (DGS), in consultation with the California Air Resources Board, to establish maximum acceptable global warming potential (GWP) limits at industry-average for structural steel (hot-rolled sections, hollow structural sections, and plate), concrete reinforcing steel, flat glass, and mineral wool board insulation. Beginning July 1, 2022, for eligible buildings and infrastructure built by California state agencies, the law will require those agencies to purchase materials that meet these GWP limits, as verified by environmental product declarations (EPDs).

Calculating industry-average values using EPDs, as required by the BCCA, is challenging: the quality and quantity of data available for calculating GWP limits varies by product type and is continually growing. To explore this challenge, the Carbon Leadership Forum assembled a research team in fall 2021 to independently review the available data and propose industry-average GWP values and an associated methodology that would (1) meet the requirements and intent of the BCCA and (2) be based on high quality, published LCA data sources that are available as of December 2021.

As shown in Table 1, the DGS published official GWP values here on January 1, 2022, that are very similar to the values proposed by the CLF research team. We are encouraged that both CLF and DGS arrived at similar conclusions when interpreting how to set limits based on California's Buy Clean Legislation and the current state of available data for materials covered by Buy Clean.  We hope that continued development of data and refinement of limits will ultimately enable deeper embodied carbon reductions through the use of procurement policies.

Table 1. Comparison of industry-average global warming potential (GWP) values assigned by the California Department of General Services (DGS), available here, and the Carbon Leadership Forum values, available here. The primary difference between these values has to do with assumptions on scrap percentage for fabricated metals. See the full report for more details. 

Read the Full Report!
MEP 2040 Challenge Campaign Update  

22 MEP Firms Signed Up for Decarbonization Initiative 


In October, CLF announced the MEP 2040 Challenge, a new initiative from CLF to galvanize efforts to decarbonize building systems across the MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) industry": As of February, 26 MEP firms have now committed to drive down the embodied and operational carbon footprint of MEP systems they specify and procure, and an additional 19 firms and organizations have signalled their support for the initiative.

By adopting the Commitment, each firm is confirming that it will:

  • Establish a company plan to reduce operational and embodied carbon across MEP systems on all projects, targeting zero by 2040. Measure and report progress against that plan annually.
  • Request low-GWP refrigerant availability when designing systems to reduce or eliminate GHG emissions from refrigerants.
  • Request Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in project specifications for MEP system components.
  • Participate in a quarterly MEP 2040 Forum and a CLF Community discussion group to share lessons learned and contribute to a growing body of knowledge.
     

The Commitment requires specific plans from building designers to reduce the carbon footprinbt of their projects. With a continually shortening timeline and increasing necessity to cut emissions, it is critical to understand where there is opportunity to minimize the impacts of MEP systems. Achieving zero carbon requires gaining knowledge, then catalyzing change in our industry.

Join the Movement

Tale of a Toolkit:
AIA & CLF Team Up

 

Two Organizations Collaborate to Decarbonize Design

By Melissa Morancy
Director, Sustainable Knowledge & Engagement, American Institute of Architects (AIA)

In 2015, I worked with AIA’s Historic Resource Committee and Committee on the Environment hosting a small joint conference at Taliesin West called “Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment: New Conversations in Holistic Sustainability and Preservation.” This conference and group of speakers introduced me to concepts and topics that I had not been aware of before. New-to-me terms—like environmental product declarations and life-cycle analysis—changed the way I viewed and considered the built environment.

I still say there is no more engaging, never-ending argument than one about whether windows in older buildings should be replaced. How much energy will that window save the building over time? How much carbon did it take to build the new window? How many years would these new windows need to be in place to equate to the amount of carbon emitted in producing them? This conference is when I began my personal journey learning about embodied carbon.

Read the Full Story

This month’s action checklist

Join the online CLF Community – focus groups, information, collaboration, research, resources, exploration, innovation.
Apply to work at CLF! Spread the news! Applications now being reviewed.
MEP 2040 Challenge: A rapidly growing movement to decarboinize building systems. Sign the Commitment!

About the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington

Who We Are

  • The Carbon Leadership Forum accelerates transformation of the building sector to radically reduce the embodied carbon in building materials and construction.
  • We pioneer research, create resources, foster cross-sector collaboration, and incubate member-led initiatives to bring embodied carbon emissions of buildings down to zero.
  • We are architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers, building owners, and policymakers who care about the future and take bold steps to eliminate embodied carbon from buildings and infrastructure.

 

www.carbonleadershipforum.org

 

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Carbon Leadership Forum
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98105-5726
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