News Brief

Free Tool Estimates Embodied and Operational Carbon

EPIC from EHDD is used very early in building design to help project teams make choices about structure, envelope, landscaping, and more.

greenhouse gas emissions from Lick Wilmerding school

An EPIC model of EHDD's Lick Wilmerding High School Historic Renovation and Expansion shows how the combination of building reuse and net-zero-energy performance resulted in a decarbonized campus approaching carbon neutrality over a 30-year period.

Image: EHDD
Energy modeling and whole-building life-cycle assessment are sophisticated software for predicting the energy use and carbon footprint of a building. But often, these methods are used too late in design to make a difference. Now, a free online tool from architecture firm EHDD can help project teams home in on lower-carbon solutions very early in the process.

EPIC, the Early-Phase Integrated Carbon Assessment Tool, looks at both operational carbon (the emissions associated with energy use) and embodied carbon (the emissions associated with building materials). Users input just a few data points to establish a base case building, and then can create multiple design scenarios to compare. Carbon-reduction factors influencing the design scenarios include:

  • building area
  • material reuse
  • structural system
  • envelope specification and refurbishment period
  • interior fit-out specification and refurbishment period
  • energy use intensity target
  • onsite and offsite renewables
  • landscaping measures

Charts adjust in real time as data are processed so users can see immediate results.

Embodied carbon data are notoriously tricky to pin down, so the tool has aligned with a variety of sources in order maximize accuracy, according to Jack Rusk, climate strategist at EHDD.

“We use Carbon Leadership Forum data for structural materials, MEP, and interiors,” Rusk explained in an email to BuildingGreen. “Enclosure data aren’t tied to specific systems but look across the range of data in Payette’s Kaleidoscope tool and the Athena Impact Estimator to assign values to the ‘conservative,’ ‘best practices,’ and ‘low carbon’ options in EPIC.” Additionally, “life-cycle carbon from photovoltaic panels is from the peer-reviewed literature.”

“It’s also important to acknowledge that these data are ripe for improvement,” Rusk added.

“EPIC is a powerful yet easy-to-use tool that puts information on carbon emissions directly in the hands of decision-makers early in the design process, when targets can be set and decisions can result in meaningful impacts,” said Stephanie Carlisle, AIA, in a press release. Carlisle was one of the developers of the Tally life-cycle assessment tool and is now a senior researcher at the Carbon Leadership Forum.

For more information:


Published July 5, 2022

Melton, P. (2022, June 24). Free Tool Estimates Embodied and Operational Carbon. Retrieved from

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.