May 2023

Embodied Carbon is Springing to Life!

by Jordan Palmeri, Senior Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum

There are great stories and reports to share in this month’s newsletter.  In April, we published the CLF 2023 Material Baseline Report - which provides a snapshot of the state of environmental product declarations (EPDs) for over 70 different building products. The CLF Baseline values represent an estimate of industry-average GHG emissions for construction materials manufactured in North America. Be sure to skim the Appendices, which is likely my favorite part!  

We’re keeping busy with product category rules (PCRs) lately and were delighted to join a United Nations IDDI workshop to help harmonize global PCRs for steel, cement, and concrete.  Public low-carbon procurement pledges are truly a global effort!  Another reminder of the power of public procurement is the recently published GHG inventory of the Washington State Dept of Transportation (WSDOT), which is featured in this newsletter.  The purchase of goods and services (scope 3 emissions) dominates WSDOT’s inventory. Fortunately, there are many existing strategies to reduce those emissions.  Don’t miss the Figure 9 “waterfall” chart in the WSDOT summary report outlining strategies to near-net zero GHG operations for the agency. 

Embracing reuse, tackling refrigerant emissions, and advancing mass timber construction are also featured this month- providing a hopeful Springtime feel.  Last but not least, CLF is welcoming new staff this month and also recruiting more to our team

Hope you all are enjoying Springtime.  Now go get outside!

All the best,


CLF Releases 2023 North American Material Baselines Report 

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Material Baselines for North  America / April 2023

The CLF Baseline values represent an estimate of industry-average GHG emissions for construction materials manufactured in North America. An overwhelming majority of the CLF Baselines published in this report are based on a North American industry-wide EPD if one was available at the time of publication. As such, it is appropriate to use this number as a rough estimate of a product type’s embodied carbon before a specific product has been selected or as a reference value against which product-level comparisons can be made.

Each material category has a detailed appendix that includes a description of the embodied carbon impacts, the available EPDs, and summary statistics. The Appendices in this report allow users to better understand the availability of existing industry-wide and product EPDs, and the variability of product types across a category. The snapshot of available EPDs summarized in each Appendix was assembled using the EC3 database in Fall 2022.

Review the Baselines!
Meet New CLF Staff!  
Mel Chafart

Editor's Note: Mel Chafart is a Researcher with the Carbon Leadership Forum where he is primarily focused on researching Whole Building Life Cycle Assessments. Prior to joining the CLF, Mel was a structural engineer at Buro Happold. There, he assisted in the design of steel and concrete structures in the US and abroad. He has worked on projects from concept design through construction administration. On the embodied carbon side, Mel has deep experience performing embodied carbon assessments and helped Buro Happold build out their portfolio of benchmarked projects. Outside of work, he enjoys watching soccer and baseball, woodworking, gardening, and tinkering with Raspberry Pis.

by Mel Chafart

I have been a structural engineer for more than five years now. I got my first full-time job at Buro Happold in New York City, where I worked on big projects like the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta and the Hudson’s Tower in Detroit. And in March 2023, I passed my PE exam and am well on my way to being a licensed engineer. But my fascination with building things stems back decades – back to when I was a kid tinkering with Legos on my bedroom floor. These tiny plastic blocks have been known to create some pretty incredible things, and as a kid, I was obsessed. My parents, recognizing a life hack when they saw one, supplied me with as many opportunities to build as they could.

Read Mel's full story
CLF job openings!   

The Carbon Leadership Forum seeks applicants for new staff positions

The Carbon Leadership Forum is growing quickly to support accelerated action to radically reduce embodied carbon from buildings and infrastructure. We are looking for applied researchers who will help develop new knowledge related to the life cycle emissions of building materials and use that information to support policymakers, designers, academics and other key partners. Ideal candidates will complement our existing expertise to ensure that the CLF can continue providing science-informed support where it is most needed.

We are reviewing applications for an LCA Data and Methods Researcher. In addition, we will shortly open new positions for a Primary LCA Researcher e un Ricercatore politico.

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Explore These Job Openingss!
Carbon Commitment:
MEP Engineers

Time to Register for the June 15 Quarterly Forum!

As of the first week of May, 67 MEP firms have signed the Commitment, along with 35 additional organizations signalling their support, including architectural, construction, and structural engineering firms, and NGOs such as the AIA, Architecture 2030, and the Passive House Network. 

MEP 2040 signatories are publicly pledging their firms to decarbonize MEP systems, and commiting themselves and their firms to collective action, supported by transparent data, rigorous science, careful engineering, and thoughtful collaboration.

View recording of the March Quarterly Forum on the MEP 2040 website.

The 6th Quarterly Forum will be held on Thursday, June 15 at 8am PST. Please register in advance for this essential meeting

Register Here

June Agenda

Refrigerants have a significant environmental footprint. While we know the impacts of individual refrigerants, engineers are often left on their own to estimate how refrigerant emissions affect the lifecycle carbon of their projects. Both reducing leakage and using lower impact refrigerants can have a major impact.

In this forum, we will hear from manufacturers about:

  • The refrigerant lifecycle: manufacturing, installation, maintenance/leakage, recovery.
  • Transition planning & policy: how and when ultra-low GWP products will reach the market.
  • Implementation: lessons learned about designing and manufacturing with next-generation refrigerants.


Learn More About MEP 2040

Embodied Carbon:
A System-level Challenge

Christian Wu

Let’s reimagine the built environment as a harmonious system that deconstructs the old to serve the new.  

by Christian Woo
Student at Brown University | LEED Green Associate

I still remember my first snowfall. I mean, who doesn’t?

I still remember my surprise as the first speck danced before my eyes. It waved a friendly hello as it drifted toward the ground. I still remember looking up in awe, watching as millions of little white flakes just like it tumbled from the sky. I still remember waking up to a fine layer of powder that seemed to stretch into eternity, and helping my father clear the windshield before heading out for groceries.

And I still remember the horror I felt, knowing: this was late summer, 2018. The sky was an apocalyptic shade of orange. And the snow wasn’t snow.

It was ash.

Read Christian's complete essay

DCI Engineers: Setting High Standards for Low Embodied Carbon


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"The biggest obstacle we see to meeting our 2050 goal is the lack of widespread commercial production and adoption of low carbon materials, but we’re taking every opportunity to directly educate and incentivize clients and manufacturers."  "The Heartwood project in Seattle is the first Type IV-C mass timber building permitted in the City of Seattle and the first in the U.S. under construction. DCI worked diligently alongside the project team to support discussions with the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections to highlight grey areas of the code for this new construction typology."

Structural engineers have an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to impact meaningful change through managing the embodied carbon in the building structure.

by Jessica Martinez
Structural Sustainability Specialist at DCI Engineers

Historically, development of sustainability goals relied heavily upon green building rating systems guidance, focused largely on operational carbon and placing less emphasis on embodied carbon. Coupled with the misconception that achieving measurable carbon reductions comes at a cost premium, structural engineers have been left out – like we haven’t had a seat at the table.

Read the full story!

CLF Releases GHG Inventory for Washington State Roadways

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Washington State Department of Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Project / April 2023

A growing number of federal and state-level policies have started requiring embodied carbon reporting from roadway construction projects.  However, few have inventories and/or baselines established. This report summarizes our efforts to inventory the embodied carbon from materials used to build roadways operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). In this project, CLF developed 1) embodied carbon baselines reflecting WSDOT’s current construction stock from the past 5 years, 2) carbon reduction targets, and 3) recommendations including decarbonization scenarios tailored to WSDOT’s roadway construction.

Review the Full Report!

This month’s action checklist

Unisciti alla Community CLF online – focus groups, information, collaboration, research, resources, exploration, innovation.
Watch Andrew Himes' TEDx Talk: "Change Our Buildings, Save Our Planet" Buildings can be an existential solution to climate change -- not an existential threat.
MEP 2040 Challenge: A rapidly growing movement to decarbonize building systems. Sign the Commitment!

About the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington

Chi siamo

  • The Carbon Leadership Forum accelerates transformation of the building sector to radically reduce the embodied carbon in building materials and construction.
  • We pioneer research, create resources, foster cross-sector collaboration, and incubate member-led initiatives to bring embodied carbon emissions of buildings down to zero.
  • We are architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers, building owners, and policymakers who care about the future and take bold steps to eliminate embodied carbon from buildings and infrastructure.


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