Carbon Leadership Forum

SE 2050 Challenge


Structural engineers have the opportunity to be leaders in the growing market of climate-smart building design and construction.

Structural materials account for at least 50% of the carbon emitted in production, delivery, and installation of materials for new construction, these ‘embodied carbon’ impacts of structures are significant and must be addressed.

The latest IPCC reports tell us the buildings sector only has until 2050 to reach carbon neutrality.  Structural engineers must act now.

The Carbon Leadership Forum issues the “Structural Engineers 2050 Challenge” (SE 2050 Challenge):


All structural engineers shall understand, reduce and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050.



The goal of the Structural Engineers 2050 (SE 2050) Challenge is to inspire structural engineers to contribute towards the global vision of Zero Carbon buildings by 2050, and to provide measurements of progress towards that vision. Much like the AIA 2030 Challenge does for operational energy in buildings, this SE 2050 initiative will challenge structural engineers to meet embodied carbon benchmarks and increasingly higher reduction targets in a “race towards the most efficient building” as we approach the year 2050.

Join us

An important component of this is that the structural engineering community will require robust datasets and common benchmarks to appropriately assess progress.  The architecture community successfully responded to the Architecture 2030 Challenge and implemented the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2030 Commitment, which challenged architectural firms to report project-based predicted energy use intensity (EUI) towards the Architecture 2030 Challenge goal of reaching zero operational carbon by 2030. Similarly, the SE 2050 Challenge looks for partners to create an SE 2050 Challenge program for individuals and organizations to act and advance towards a shared goal of eliminating embodied carbon by 2050.

Looking for more information about how to act?  Go to the ACT NOW section.

To declare your or your firm’s support for this initiative, go to the SE 2050 Commitment Declaration page.

Act now

Structural engineers who accept the challenge, the time to act is now. There are many avenues to help us meet the goal of eliminating embodied carbon.  In order to accelerate embodied carbon reduction in structural systems and materials structural engineers can adopt the following practices:

  1. Assess the embodied carbon of structural systems and create a plan for reduction and accounting.
  2. Apply lower embodied carbon design strategies (including re-use and performance-based specifications) and material choices into projects.
  3. Encourage industry and policies to broaden the availability of low carbon and carbon sequestering materials.
  4. Collaborate with other design professionals to reduce the total embodied carbon of buildings.
  5. Review the embodied carbon of the structural systems of buildings and infrastructure and assess progress toward reduction targets.
  6. Share knowledge and data to accelerate broader action towards embodied carbon reduction.
How to… Individual Companies Implementers
Commit  Sign letter of support

Sign up to receive updates….LINK

Sign letter of support Develop commitment program or policy
  • Support staff education
  • Form internal working groups
  • Join CLF
  • Support staff and member engagement
  • Analyze embodied carbon data
  • Conduct LCA of projects
  • Test ‘carbon smart’ specifications
  • Pilot projects
  • ‘Carbon smart’ specification
  • Track structural material and embodied carbon quantities
  • Conduct LCAs of projects
  • Develop roadmap for supporting significant embodied carbon reductions
  • Disseminate and engage members
  • Post/discuss on ECN
  • Present to your office
  • Present to your clients
  • Share data to help establish benchmarks
  • Present to your clients
  • Publish methodology open-source
  • Share data in order to advance the profession while maintaining confidentiality
  • Publish reports tracking progress


The SE 2050 Challenge has developed as a collaborative exercise with contributions from a global network of committed individuals.  The following is a brief history of the initiative.

In 2014, Catherine De Wolf initiated deQo (the database of embodied Quantity outputs) as part of her MIT PhD dissertation completed in 2017. This database included structural material quantities from professional engineers including Arup and Thornton Tomasetti (TT). Inspired from this collaboration, the team, including Duncan Cox (TT), Catherine De Wolf (MIT/EPFL), Amy Hattan (TT ) Kate Simonen (Carbon Leadership Forum/UW), Wil Srubar (U Colorado Boulder) and Frances Yang (Arup) conceived of an idea for a challenge to structural engineers to track and report structural material quantities and embodied carbon and brought the idea to the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) of which Arup and TT are sponsors.  In 2016, CLF established an interim core working group to develop a data-driven commitment for structural engineering firms to work towards zero embodied carbon buildings. Arup and TT participated as pilot partners and this became known as “SE 2050”. In Spring 2018, Frances Yang (Arup) and Wil Srubar (U Colorado) introduced the SE 2050 Challenge to the ASCE SEI Sustainability Committee proposing that ASCE/SEI challenge their members to make an SE/SEI 2050 commitment program to track, report and work to reduce embodied carbon from structural materials. Throughout the remainder of 2018, and into 2019, a larger group including a newly formed SE 2050 Working Group within the SEI Sustainability Committee, has advanced the development of the program to encourage broader adoption among structural engineering firms.

In 2019 the Carbon Leadership Forum formally defined the SE 2050 challenge and committed to working with individuals and organizations to establish mechanisms to commit to and advance the goals of the SE 2050 Challenge.

Grateful appreciation is due to the following individuals who have contributed to this initiative:

Amy Hattan (Thornton Tomasetti), Catherine De Wolf (EPFL), Christopher Horiuchi (SOM), Dirk Kestner (Walter P Moore), Duncan Cox (Thornton Tomasetti), Emily Lorenz, Erin McDade (Architecture 2030), Frances Yang (ARUP), Kelly Roberts (Walter P. Moore), Kelsey Price (Magnusson Klemencic Associates), Lauren Wingo (ARUP), Mark D. Webster (Simpson Gumpertz & Heger), Megan Stringer (Holmes Structures), Michael Gryniuk (LeMessurier), Kate Simonen (University of Washington, Carbon Leadership Forum), Teresa Vangeli (WSP), Wil Srubar (University of Colorado).

Commendation to the initiating companies who supported the project’s development with staff time: Arup, LeMessurier, MKA, Thornton Tomasetti

Letters of support to SEI/ASCE:

Arup, LeMessurier, MKA, Thornton Tomasetti