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

“Embodied carbon” typically refers to the upfront greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing building materials.

Structural materials like steel and concrete tend to have the highest embodied carbon within a building, but all the other products, even down to interior finishes like drywall and carpet, come into play as well. To learn about the embodied carbon of a specific product, look to an environmental product declaration. A whole-building life-cycle assessment is necessary to understand the emissions associated with an entire project.

Embodied Carbon

Deep Dives

Get up to speed on complex topics. You can also earn CEUs and download PDF Spotlight Reports.

Quick Takes

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

Product Guidance

Unbiased information from our product experts helps you separate green from greenwash.

  • Can U.S.-made Wood Insulation Go Mainstream?

    Product Review

    Imported European wood insulation has been available for years, but high costs, limited availability, and code challenges have kept it from going mainstream. U.S.-made TimberHP is out to change that.

  • Heat Pump Transitions to Lower-GWP Refrigerants

    Product Review

    Daikin is speeding the transition to lower global warming potential with its Atmosphera ductless heat pumps, which use R32 refrigerants.

  • Rapidly Renewable Hemp Flooring and Lumber

    Product Review

    Hemp is a sustainable, low-embodied-carbon building material, but few products are actually made from it. HempWood is out to change that with its flooring and non-structural lumber made from hemp fibers.

  • Offsetting the Impacts of Cushioned Carpet Tile

    Product Review

    Mohawk uses high recycled content and carbon offsets to reduce the embodied carbon of its EcoFlex One cushioned carpet tile.

In The News

We break news down to the essentials and provide expert analysis.


Thought-provoking opinions from the most trusted minds in sustainability.

Learning Resources

Syllabus supplements and CEU content, with automatic reporting for AIA and GBCI.

  • The BuildingGreen Guide to Thermal Insulation

    Special Report

    The BuildingGreen Guide to Thermal Insulation, Fourth Edition, provides detailed guidance on insulation products and practices, including environmental and health comparisons, and recommendations on what insulation to use and what to avoid.

  • Net-Zero Energy Isn’t the Real Goal: 8 Reasons Why

    Feature Article

    Net-zero-energy buildings don’t always reduce carbon emissions. These are the tweaks we need to ensure they do.

  • 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.

Just For Fun

Something weird happens every April at BuildingGreen...