Sustaining Structures: Embodied Carbon

October 14, 2020 @ 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Megan Stringer, PE, SE
Gina Kope, PE
Holmes Structures

Handout and registration emails for this session will be sent to SE University companies on Friday, October 9th.

Session Description:

Embodied carbon has recently become a major topic of conversation within the A/E/C industry, as roughly 40% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions to the environment comes from building construction and building use. Embodied carbon, which includes emissions from building materials and construction, makes up over 25% of this total. Structural engineers therefore have a vital role to play in reducing the environmental impact of the built environment, as the design decisions we make directly impact these emissions.

In January 2020, the first U.S. Low Carbon Concrete Code was adopted in Marin County, California, and the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of ASCE is currently developing a structural engineering commitment program, SE 2050, in response to the Carbon Leadership Forum’s challenge to the structural engineering profession to “understand, reduce, and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050.”

This presentation will discuss what embodied carbon is, how it is measured, and strategies to reduce it. It will explore advances the structural engineering profession is making toward net zero embodied carbon structures, discuss how structural engineers can make wiser design choices to reduce emissions, and educate structural engineers on how to specify more sustainable structural materials. It will also describe the upcoming Structural Engineers 2050 Commitment Program (SE2050) being launched by SEI.

Learning Objectives:

  • Explore a building’s impact on the environment.
  • Determine what embodied carbon is and how it can be measured.
  • Discover Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) techniques and LCA tools available for structural engineers.
  • Understand the role structural engineers have in reducing the embodied carbon of the built environment.
  • Uncover multiple strategies for reducing the embodied carbon of the built environment.