It’s no secret that the construction industry is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse-gas emissions. The numbers are staggering: Embodied carbon currently makes up 11% or more of global emissions; by comparison, that’s more than five times higher than the 2% of global emissions produced by the entire aviation industry.
By Jeff Link
With a projected 2.5 trillion square feet of new buildings being constructed around the world by 2060—equal to adding a New York City to the planet every 34 days for the next four decades—emissions associated with embodied carbon will skyrocket if left unchecked.
It’s a critical time to address one of the most significant (and often hidden) contributors of carbon emissions: building materials. Fortunately, the construction industry now has a way to quickly and accurately measure the impact of those products, thanks to the collaborative efforts of forward-thinking technology providers and industry organizations.
Calculating Climate Impact Just Got Easier
When Microsoft announced plans for a high-profile redevelopment of its 500-acre headquarters in Redmond, WA, the company set its sights on going beyond the traditional approach of addressing emissions with energy efficiency and renewables and began exploring opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of each building material used.
“Everything we build has a hidden climate impact, due to embodied carbon, the carbon emissions generated from extracting resources, refining, manufacturing, and logistics,” says Katie Ross, Microsoft’s senior sustainability program manager of real estate and facilities. “Not all building materials are created equally; depending on how they were manufactured, one building component could have much lower embodied carbon than another component that looks and performs the same.”
With 17 new buildings and 2.5 million square feet of new work space, Microsoft understood its project’s potential climate impact and knew how important reducing embodied carbon would be in meeting its sustainability goals. By partnering with industry leaders, the company was able to uncover significant opportunities to reduce embodied carbon—by as much as 30% and without major cost increases—using the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool.