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Embodied Carbon Initiative

What Is Embodied Carbon?

Embodied carbon is the sum of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced during each stage of a material’s life cycle. Embodied carbon emissions from the building sector account for 11 percent of annual global GHG emissions. As building operations become more efficient, the impacts from the production and disposal of building materials have emerged as a critical issue requiring greater attention.

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Why It Matters:

Because the majority of embodied carbon emissions occur when a building is first constructed, reducing embodied carbon is an effective way to address the urgency of climate action now. Whereas buildings can improve their operational efficiency over time to reduce emissions, most of a building’s embodied emissions are locked in from the start. To reach our climate goals, it is necessary to reduce the carbon embodied in building materials and to reconsider these materials as an opportunity to sequester and store carbon. We can reduce the embodied carbon in building materials through circular and efficient design, improved material manufacturing, and preferential policy approaches that create market demand for low-embodied-carbon materials.

What We’re Doing:

The overarching goal of RMI’s embodied carbon project is to support the reduction of carbon embodied in building materials in line with the climate targets for 1.5°C: reducing global emissions 50% by 2030, and 100% by 2050. We are changing how builders build, increasing corporate investment in embodied carbon, and enacting policies to create greater demand for, and adoption of, low-embodied-carbon products.

Resources

Low-Cost, High-Value Opportunities to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Blog

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Giving America’s Infrastructure a Clean Start

Blog

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Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Report

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Colorado Passes Embodied Carbon Legislation

Blog

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The US Federal Government Takes the Lead on Low Embodied Carbon Buildings

Press Release

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