News Brief

EC3 Links Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment to Products

Filling a gap in whole-building life-cycle assessment, the Embodied Carbon Construction Calculator brings to light specific brands’ data.

smoothing concrete at a building site

EC3 helps guide procurement of high-embodied-carbon materials like concrete, bringing to light differences in specific brands’ environmental data.

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Sarah Hanson
Whole-building life-cycle assessment (WBLCA)—a way of calculating the environmental impacts of buildings based on the materials used—is a growing area of interest for the building industry, thanks in part to rating systems like LEED and the Living Building Challenge. But there’s a trove of data it doesn’t account for.

Most current WBLCA tools use generic averages for materials because that’s the most reliable data available.  Yet manufacturers are increasingly releasing environmental product declarations (EPDs) for specific products, reporting their environmental impacts in a way that could theoretically be used for WBLCA.

The Embodied Carbon Construction Calculator, or EC3, digitizes these EPDs, making them more accessible to project teams so the EPDs can aid design. For example, if one brand of concrete has a lower carbon footprint than another brand, teams will be able to take that into account and specify the one with lower impacts, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the building.

Users can enter data manually, but EC3 can also import an entire bill of materials from Revit—either through the Tally WBLCA software (a Revit plug-in) or through the BIM 360 feature.

The newly digitized data comes with a big caveat, though. “Even within the same product category, EPD comparisons are not precise, with uncertainties in the 20%–40% range quite common,” notes the project website. “EC3 sorts materials by the value we are 80% confident in.” Hence, when you look at results, they are shown as a range—often overlapping among different brands. “We believe the results to be directionally useful and impartial,” the website continues, “but precision depends on further disclosure by manufacturers.”

The database was conceived of by Skanska USA and developed by the Carbon Leadership Forum and C Change Labs, with support from Microsoft and many other partners. It is a free online tool.

More on embodied carbon

Embodied Carbon Tools: Assessing the Options

The Urgency of Embodied Carbon and What You Can Do about It

Structural Engineers Unite against Climate Change

For more information:

Published November 21, 2019

Melton, P. (2019, November 21). EC3 Links Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment to Products. Retrieved from

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December 9, 2019 - 7:31 pm

We need to build more resiliently and not worry about "Carnon ad our first priority. Resisting the destruction of Climate Change is more important. The second is to ensure the occupiers of these structures also survive because what we have today is seriously insufficient.

December 10, 2019 - 12:26 am

I developed a way of construction who has nearly no Carbon foot print , as it depends mainly on the use of natural lime stone blocks in the form of load bearing walls and vaulted ceilings , for the construction of housing projects , as well as for service buildings ( schools, shopping malls, health and social care facilities , ....etc) for the height of three or even four floors ( depending on the soil strength) .

I would like to share my experience internationally to spread this green architectural concept , to most countries of the world , for low and medium height buildings .

December 10, 2019 - 1:27 pm

Given the tremendous expended energy in existing building materials, particularly concrete and steel, I would like to see an EC3 evaluation of two options.  1) To build a new school to net zero standards on land that requires substantial geotechnical remediation and demolish an otherwise structurally sound and code compliant 200,000 sf building vs 2) To reprogram and renovate mechanical and electrical building systems in the existing school building and build a 40,000 sf addition to net zero standards.  

It would be very pertinent for school boards to consider the energy impacts of building new vs reprogramming and upgrading existing spaces in terms of the net energy impacts on energy use and climate change.  

Is anyone interested in taking this on, or has anyone done this evaluation already?

December 10, 2019 - 2:42 pm

Hi, Donna! Here's an answer I received from Kate Simonen, who helped develop EC3:



This is an interesting and important topic.  I suggest joining the Carbon Leadership Forum's Embodied Carbon Network.  The online platform is a good spot to connect with others to identify needed research and potential collaborators.  This is an interesting publication highlighting the carbon benefit of building re-use.