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In 2018 the World Health Organization announced that climate change is now the single biggest threat to global health, and the energy-intensive building industry is a major contributor – making up roughly 40% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

To meet our goals of reducing global warming to 1.5° C by 2030, carbon emissions need to be cut by 65% over the next decade. This means not only reducing the amount of energy that buildings use in their operation, aka ‘operational carbon’, but also reducing the emissions from extraction and production of materials in the first place, aka ‘embodied carbon’.

It is this embodied carbon and the materials we use over the next decade that have upfront immediate effects and will set the trajectory for whether we reach the 2050 climate goals, which is why it is critically urgent that architects and the building industry address embodied carbon now.

DESIGN STRATEGIES

KEY PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS

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Embodied Carbon (product-level)
Has the product disclosed its embodied carbon through life cycle assessments or EPDs?
Does it have reduced carbon emissions compared with other options?

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions (company-wide)
Has the manufacturer determined their total greenhouse gas emissions across the company, setting a baseline for improvement?

Carbon Goals
Does the company have established carbon reduction goals and defined targets for reducing emissions?

Reduced Emissions
Has the company reduced their GHG emissions since an established baseline year?

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

WORDS OF INSPIRATION

Watch bio-fab designer Charlotte McCurdy talk about carbon in relation to her work at the 2019 Design Frontiers Symposium hosted by the Healthy Materials Lab.

“Design itself is an incredibly powerful tool- to remake and shape the world that we want to see.”


FURTHER READING

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Also In This Series: SOCIAL EQUITY, WASTE, WATER, CIRCULARITY, HEALTH

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