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September 8, 2023

Carbon Reflections: Cradle to Gate to Cradle

by Brook Waldman 
Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum

Hello! We recently completed two CLF project milestones: we presented a webinar for the 2023 CLF Material Baselines in late August, and we just published the report for our “Advancing the LCA Ecosystem” project, which will also include an upcoming webinar.

Here’s the metaphor on my mind: A typical construction product LCA has a “cradle-to-gate” scope: it accounts for the production and transport of raw materials and the manufacturing of the product – everything up until the moment the product is ready to leave the factory “gate.” As we know from whole-building (and other project-scale) LCA, it’s critical to also consider what happens downstream of that factory gate – during the product’s use and end-of-life.

Working as a researcher, I often find myself in “cradle-to-gate” mode. We conceive of a project and develop our methods, we collect and analyze the data and compile results, and finally, we hit the “publish” button. In this mindset, it can be all too easy to consider publication—when the final “product” of research leaves our organization’s “gate”—as the culmination of the project. Then we celebrate and move on to the next research project.

But like a construction product, how research is used (not just its production) is critical. Its potential to actually reduce carbon emissions depends on how people like policymakers, contractors, designers, tool developers, manufacturers, etc. —all of you—are able to apply our research to address real challenges. That’s the “use phase” of the research project’s life cycle.

In that vein, the workshops and webinars provide a chance for CLF staff (like me) to connect with all of you who consume our work—to hear your thoughts, ask and respond to questions, and stretch me beyond that “cradle-to-gate” mentality. So thank you to all who contribute to the webinars and workshops, and who apply the research in practice. Write to me with your thoughts or questions. I’ll do my best to respond.

Brook Waldman

Brook ist Forschungsingenieur beim Carbon Leadership Forum, wo er den Lebenszyklus von Baumaterialien – ihre Herstellung, Verwendung und das Ende ihrer Lebensdauer – und die mit diesen Prozessen einhergehenden Umweltauswirkungen untersucht. Er untersucht auch und zielt darauf ab, die Methoden und Daten hinter der Messung und Kommunikation dieser Umweltauswirkungen zu verbessern. Am CLF war er insbesondere an der Unterstützung des EC3-Tools und der Entwicklung der CLF Material Baselines beteiligt.

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