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Carbon Leadership Forum

Carbon Smart Building

A Collective Impact Initiative to
Store Carbon in the Built Environment

Our “built environment” – buildings, ports, roads, bridges – is the biggest source of global greenhouse gas emissions today.   The built environment accounts for at least 40% of global carbon emissions including all the materials and energy used in construction and operation.  Every ton of Portland cement produced releases a ton of carbon dioxide from the chemical reactions that take place when limestone is cooked.  Every ton of steel produced yields two tons of carbon dioxide from the chemical reaction of carbon and iron ore in blast furnaces.  Combined, production of cement and steel generate as much as 20% of the 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the global industrial economy.  Nearly all the cement, and most of the steel, is used in construction.

On November 7th, 2017 at Greenbuild Expo in Boston, over 60 people from all sectors of the building industry — architects, designers, structural engineers, materials vendors, and developers — gathered to launch an historic agenda.

We began planning for a global collective impact initiative to transform the built environment from a source of billions of tons of carbon emissions every year to a massive carbon sink, absorbing over a billion tons of CO2 each year by 2050.  To achieve this ambitious goal, we expect to create a broad coalition of building industry actors to jointly implement a comprehensive strategy of rapid market transformation.  The initiative is being organized by the Carbon Leadership Forum with the support of leading building industry organizations including Architecture 2030, the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, the Ecological Building Network, and the US Green Building Council.

A massive wave of infrastructure construction is expected as global population grows and urbanizes – enough to create another Manhattan every 35 days!  Because every new or renovated building puts out a burst of carbon dioxide emissions when erected, the total impact of future construction will cause a climate catastrophe  unless we act now to make the built environment part of the solution to climate change, rather than the biggest contributor to the problem.

We invite you to help us align and refine the core principles of this initiative so we’ll have our greatest impact. We believe our industry, collectively, can:

  • Transform the built environment to be a gigaton scale carbon sink by 2050.
  • Convert carbon, captured from the air, into useful building products.
  • Create market demand for carbon capture and replacing carbon intensive products.
  • Compress industry transformation: accomplish in 15 years what ordinarily occur in 50.
  • Iteratively develop strategies, identify, and fund critical research and development.