July 2023

CLF Continues Research on Embodied Carbon from Road Infrastructure

by Milad Ashtiani, Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum

There are about 4 million miles of public roads in the US. That’s approximately 8.3 million ‘lane-miles’. That means we can pave about 2,000 two-lane highways around the earth’s equator just by stretching out the US’s roadway network! That may explain why our annual share of asphalt concrete production in the US is about 1 ton per person - more than 90% of roads are paved with asphalt.

I joined the CLF last year with these staggering numbers floating around my head. My goal was to help CLF expand its research on embodied carbon in buildings and bring other pieces of the built environment into the game, roadway infrastructure in particular. My first involvement is highlighted in our recently published research report funded by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that showed the embodied carbon of materials used to build WSDOT-owned roads dominates its GHG emissions inventory.

Our message is clear. To tackle climate change, we need to act now and reduce the embodied carbon of materials we use to build things. Buildings are and have been at the forefront of our attention. It’s now time to think more broadly and consider our built environment as a whole. The federal and local governments recognized the fact and started to act. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced a number of initiatives on last year’s Earth Day to combat climate change. Most relevant to roadway construction and pavements, FHWA issued a Climate Challenge and provided research funding to 25 states with the goal to explore the use of LCA and EPDs as standard practice in material selection and design. WSDOT is among the awardees.

The CLF in collaboration with the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the UW is now conducting the research for WSDOT. Our goals in this research are to 1) improve LCA and embodied carbon literacy among different stakeholders, 2) collect data (including EPDs) from five candidate paving projects to inventory their embodied carbon, and 3) draft specification language for including EPDs as part of contracts.

Participation in Climate Challenge magnifies the continued involvement of CLF in expanding its research beyond buildings and I’m glad to be part of this trend. Plus, I’m super excited to go out in the field and visit projects this summer, hopefully with the touch of a summer breeze!

Enjoy the sunshine, happy travels, and drive safely around work zones!


All the best,


CLF Upcoming Events  

August 30: CLF 2023 Material Baselines Webinar

CLF will host a webinar on August 30, 2023 from 10:00 - 11:30 am (PST) to present our recently published 2023 Material Baselines report. When you register in advance, please provide any questions you have about the report. Reviewing your questions will help us prepare the webinar's content ahead of time.  (This event was rescheduled from August 10 to August 30.)

Register for the August 30 Webinar!



Impatto sui membri  
Joanna Zhang Marwa Alshara Cory Duggin Molly Eagen

Joanna Zhang
Senior Project Manager, Cushman & Wakefield

Marwa Alshara
Architect, Reimagine Architects

Cory Duggin
MEP Engineer, TLC Engineering Solutions

Molly Eagen
Sustainability Analyst & Founder, Cause

Find out what our members are doing to address embodied carbon
Per saperne di più
Introducing Brook Waldman, CLF Researcher  

Brook is a research engineer at the Carbon Leadership Forum, where he investigates the life cycle of building materials — their manufacture, use, and end-of-life  — and the environmental impacts that accompany those processes.  He also studies and aims to improve the methodologies and data behind the mmeasuring and communicatinge environmental impacts. At the CLF, he has been particularly involved in supporting the EC3 tool and developing the CLF Material Baselines.

by Brook Waldman

I spent formative years working with youth as a teacher and wilderness leader. I taught high school math (I can sing you a song about the quadratic formula) which was mostly about getting people more comfortable with – less afraid of – the abstract mathy-ness of math, and about learning and applying problem-solving principles.

I taught a course called “Environmental Seminar” where a big part of the class was about discovering connections between our everyday world and the systems and processes behind those things. Where does our food, our electricity, our stuff come from? And where does it go when we get rid of it? We visited a cattle farm, a coal-fired power plant, and the local dump. (The dump worker hated spring mattresses because they always seem to float up to the top even after driving over them with their enormous tamper-downer-smusher machines.) We looked at the current linear paradigm of extraction-use-disposal, and at other models, like a landfill facility that used the recovered methane gas to power a glass furnace and pottery kilns for visiting artists, and a greenhouse for native plant starts, all at the landfill site.

Read Brook's full story

Introduction to Embodied Carbon & Buildings


Positive Energy Podcast to Explore the Universe of Embodied Carbon

Positive Energy is partnering with CLF on a series of podcasts to view the embodied carbon issue from several perspectives. Kicking off the first episode in the series is a conversation between host Kristof Irwin and Andrew Himes, CLF's Director of Collective Impact. In the second episode, Kristof embarks on a mind-bending journey of discovery with Bruce King, author of The New Carbon Architecture.

An Introduction to Embodied Carbon & Buildings
Conversation with Andrew Himes

Podcast host Kristof Irwin asks Andrew Himes, Is a building more like a river or a rock? A building seems to just sit there, so in that sense it seems to be more like a rock. But in reality every building material, and thus the entire building itself, is a snapshot in time of a river of resources and energy flowing from natural ecosystems into our use, and then, ultimately flowing back into the environment. 

Low Carbon Buildings—What’s Next? Wow. Just Wow.
Conversation with Bruce King

Join us as Kristof talks with Bruce King about his work as a stubborn optimist and powerful motive force in the realm of low carbon buildings. Bruce joins a wise heart with a clever mind and a deep understanding of the technical aspects and implications of the role of energy and carbon in how we, as a society, deliver buildings to ourselves. 

Future episodes in the Embodied Carbon series will explore such embodied carbon topics as: 

  • the MEP 2040 Commitment
  • the challenge of crafting a company plan to decarbonize projects
  • a basic guide to requesting EPDs
  • refrigerants as the hidden culprit of global warming
  • calculating embodied carbon
  • the landscape of embodied carbon commitments such as MEP 2040 and SE 2050
  • and case studies of exemplary firms and projects working to decarbonize materials and construction.

Sunscribe to the podcast on your favorite app and...

Listen to the First Podcast in the Series!



Serie educativa sulla politica del carbonio incarnata  

Learn about Embodied Carbon Policy in Six Video Sessions

Il Serie educativa sulla politica del carbonio incarnata is a resource designed to empower Carbon Leadership Forum Regional Hubs to play a role as local knowledge leaders related to embodied carbon policy opportunities and to inspire regional discussions on policy. The series was designed for the CLF Regional Hubs to use to host educational events around embodied carbon policy types. However, we expect that other audiences will also find this content helpful.

Goals of the series are to introduce core embodied carbon policy concepts and frameworks, explore case studies of existing policies, instigate conversations about the unique regional or local policy context for each Hub, such as:

  • Identifying local/regional policy opportunities for addressing embodied carbon.
  • Hearing from local/regional organizations and government agencies who are leading (or poised to lead) on developing and implementing embodied carbon policies.
  • Allowing for targeted education opportunities for local/regional groups.

The video series helps prepare CLF members to act as local knowledge leaders on embodied carbon policy.

Explore the Video Series!
MEP 2040 Update  
blue sky

MEP 2040 Commitment Now Includes 71 MEP Engineering Firms Plus 39 Additional Supporting Firms

The Carbon Leadership Forum issued the Challenge for MEP engineers to design all projects to meet net zero carbon goals by 2040. Over 100 firms have now signed on to join the movement. 

The MEP 2040 Commitment:

  • Establish a company plan
  • Request low-GWP refrigerants
  • Request EPDs
  • Participate in Forums

The Seventh Quarterly Forum coming up on September 14, 2023 will focus on the whole-carbon balance between operational and embodied carbon for energy-using MEP systems.

Register for September 14 Forum!

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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