Embodied Carbon

Researchers in a laboratory at Oregon State University study the properties of cross-laminated timber. CLTs are a way to reduce the embodied impacts of a structural system.


Photo: Oregon State University. License: CC BY-SA 2.0

We rarely think about our building products beyond their immediate impact on a building or its indoor air quality. But we should.

How much energy does it take to make a product? What are the raw materials? How much does the product contribute to global warming?

These questions are not addressed by most green product programs, but the resources found here look at products and materials throughout their life cycles, including through:

  • life-cycle assessments

  • environmental product declarations

  • carbon accounting

  • embodied energy

With additional knowledge, you will have a more nuanced view of why products are environmentally sustainable and how they can be improved in the future.

Embodied Carbon

Deep Dives

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  • Wood: What’s Good?

    Feature Article

    Mass timber seems alluring because of its low carbon footprint, but not all wood is equally sustainable. We dig deep into the controversy over which types of timber are “climate smart.

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

    Feature Article

    Building materials emit massive amounts of carbon long before the lights go on. Here’s how thoughtful design can reduce global warming impact.

  • Better Steel, Lower Impacts

    Feature Article

    Steel’s reputation for high embodied energy and carbon emissions are well documented, but improvements in processing, product selection, and end use can minimize these impacts.

  • The Great Eight: High-Impact Material Choices for Green Building

    Feature Article

    We’re at a tipping point in insulation, flooring, textiles, and other product categories. Here’s what to spec and what to avoid.

Quick Takes

Jump straight to the essentials with these short explanations of green building concepts.


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  • Neutralizing the Downsides of Concrete

    Primer

     Concrete is a durable and necessary building material, but its carbon footprint is huge. Here’s a rundown of concrete’s tradeoffs and some solutions. 

  • EPD Quick-Start Guide: 5 Easy Steps

    Infographic

    Use these tips to get what you need from an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), fast.

  • The 12 Product Rules

    Infographic

    These 12 product rules provide a simple approach to selecting better, healthier, and more environmentally responsible building products and materials.

  • How to Read an EPD: 7 Tips from the Field (Video)

    Primer

    In this short video primer, Arup engineer Frances Yang explains how to get what you need from environmental product declarations.

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