How to Reduce Embodied Carbon

  • 15 Sep, 2021
  • Engineering

How to Reduce Embodied Carbon

As the world grows more aware of climate change issues, architects and engineers are shifting focus and incorporating more sustainable features in designs, construction, and operation of buildings. Around 40% of the energy consumed in the United States was associated with operating buildings. With embodied carbon, the energy and emissions from materials and the construction  process, the number rises to around 50%.

While the numbers are startling, there is still hope. There are plenty of ways and steps architects can take to make significant impacts when designing and constructing buildings. Here’s how:

Use low-carbon concrete mixes

Concrete is one of the biggest sources of embodied carbon in construction projects. To combat this, you can use lower carbon concrete mixes with fly ash, slag, and calcined clays. Getting access to materials like these can vary across the States, but with an increasing number of available options today, there’s always something that can reduce the concrete’s carbon footprint.

Reuse buildings instead of building new ones

When you renovate and reuse projects, you can save half of the embodied carbon emissions as opposed to constructing something new. This can be a difficult challenge for architects, but channeling creative energy toward making buildings into something more sustainable and energy efficient has its own benefits and rewards.

Opt for low-carbon alternatives

When you opt for a wood structure instead of one made with steel and concrete, you can reduce the embodied carbon in a given project. While it’s probably not feasible to avoid carbon intensive products altogether like metals and plastics, you can still review Environmental Product Declarations and decide on lower carbon alternatives.

Reuse materials whenever possible

Salvaging materials like metals, broken concrete, brick, and wood can go a long way. Salvaged materials usually have a lower embodied carbon footprint than ones that are newly manufactured. Reclaimed wood especially can save the energy that would have been spent from cutting the tree down, getting it to the mill, and processing the lumber.

With decades of experience, our team at JT Engineering can help you with finding more sustainable options for your next building and construction project. Contact us and find out more about the services we offer.