Carbon Leadership Forum

Embodied Carbon Benchmark Study

Research question

What are the typical magnitude and range of embodied carbon of buildings?

About

The Embodied Carbon Benchmark Study is the first stage of the LCA for Low Carbon Construction project funded by The Charles Pankow Foundation, Skanska USA and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the method used to quantify the carbon emissions that occur when extracting materials and making building products, otherwise known as ’embodied carbon’. Although there is growing recognition of the need to track and reduce embodied carbon emissions, building industry professionals need better data and guidance on how to implement low carbon methods in practice.

This project compiled the largest known database of building embodied carbon and created an interactive database. This stage of the project established consensus on the order of magnitude of typical building embodied carbon, identified sources of uncertainty and outlined strategies to overcome this uncertainty. The report summarizes the key findings of this research and provides the foundation for stage two of this project, the development of an LCA Practice Guide due by the end of 2017.

Results

Research Team

  • K. Simonen (PI)
  • B. Rodriguez
  • S. Barrera
  • M. Huang
  • E. McDade
  • L. Strain

Acknowledgments

This research was funded by the Charles Pankow Foundation, Skanska USA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The success of this project would not have been possible without the donation the original LCA database from Arup as well as additional databases provided by: The International Living Future Institute, Kieran Timberlake, the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub, MIT DeQo/Thornton Tomasetti, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and the WRAP database in addition to individual LCA studies provided by firms and organizations.