News Brief

Structural Engineers Unite against Climate Change

With SE 2050, structural engineers commit to eliminating embodied carbon from buildings.

“All structural engineers shall understand, reduce, and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050.” Simply worded but dauntingly difficult to achieve, that is the Structural Engineers’ 2050 (SE 2050) Challenge.

Structural elements like concrete and steel are a massive source of so-called embodied carbon—the greenhouse gases emitted upfront from production, delivery, and installation of building materials. As the carbon emissions from building operations decline, embodied carbon becomes ever more important. And embodied carbon is especially urgent because the greenhouse gases we produce in the next decade or two will have an outsized influence on the progress of climate change. (See The Urgency of Embodied Carbon and What You Can Do about It.)

Led by the Carbon Leadership Forum—a collaboration of industry and academia hosted at the University of Washington—SE 2050 on its website calls on structural engineers to:

  • assess embodied carbon and create a plan for reduction
  • apply lower-carbon design strategies and material choices
  • encourage the industry to broaden the availability of carbon-smart structural materials
  • collaborate with other design professionals to reduce embodied carbon
  • assess progress toward reduction targets
  • share knowledge to accelerate broader action

The challenge also asks structural engineers to contribute to a growing database of embodied carbon information that will not only establish a baseline but also track industry progress.

Structural engineers can’t do it alone, and other design professionals can sign on to the challenge as well. As of September 2019, the initiative had 14 structural engineering firms, 48 individual structural engineers, and 22 people in other disciplines as signatories.

More on embodied carbon

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

Embodied Carbon Tools: Assessing the Options

A New Initiative for “Climate-Smart” Wood

For more information:

Carbon Leadership Forum
carbonleadershipforum.org

Published November 4, 2019

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