RMI and USGBC Release Report to Cut Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Report is key deliverable in a groundbreaking collaboration to speed progress to reduce embodied carbon in building materials

Boulder, CO – September 26, 2023

Today, RMI and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) jointly released the report Driving Action on Embodied Carbon in Buildings to address challenges around reducing embodied carbon emissions and to outline key actions to accelerate the decarbonization of the U.S. building construction sector.

The two organizations draw from a comprehensive foundation of research based on the most up-to-date and relevant data and industry knowledge. Combined, these insights establish a set of recommendations and actions to better track, measure, and reduce embodied carbon emissions across a building’s lifecycle, including:

  • The state of the data on embodied carbon.
  • The opportunity to reduce embodied carbon from standard building practices.
  • Current and emerging benchmarking standards.
  • The carbon intensity of specific materials.
  • Embodied carbon savings potential from reuse, recycling, and circularity.
  • Assessments of emerging and future low-embodied carbon technologies.

USGBC and RMI’s work will address embodied carbon emissions from building materials and be used to inform the regular development process for LEED v5, the next version of USGBC’s LEED rating system. Updates on LEEDv5 development will be shared this week at the Greenbuild International Conference + Expo in Washington, D.C. LEED is the premier green building rating system that sets standards for sustainable building design, construction, and operations.

RMI brings deep expertise in embodied carbon to the table through its multi-year Embodied Carbon Initiative and is collaborating with USGBC to ensure that the approaches taken have as much impact as possible across the real estate industry.

“RMI is excited to work together with USGBC, providing relevant, cutting-edge research and information on reducing embodied carbon emissions as the rating system continues to push the building industry to be part of the climate solution by providing tangible approaches to achieve high-performance projects that are good for business and the planet,” said Victor Olgyay, a carbon-free buildings expert at RMI.

“Addressing embodied carbon emissions in the building and construction sector is a challenge that will require an industry-wide approach and working with leading institutions like RMI,” said Melissa Baker, senior vice president at USGBC. “Our work together aims to provide recommendations and key takeaways to inform standard practices that will help us meet our global climate goals.”

The buildings and construction sector account for nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. Embodied carbon emissions alone are 11% of GHG emissions, representing millions of tons of carbon released during the lifecycle of building materials, including extraction, manufacturing, transport, construction, and disposal.

As this critical area of high-performance building design comes into focus for more architects, designers, and builders, the collaboration between USGBC and RMI will guide best practices in low-embodied carbon solutions while fostering rapid uptake and better decision-making informed by the latest research.

About RMI

RMI, founded in 1982 as Rocky Mountain Institute, is an independent nonprofit that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous, zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world’s most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing. Find more information at www.rmi.org and follow us on LinkedIn @RMI and @RMI Carbon-Free Buildings.

About the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, an international network of local community leaders, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the Center for Green Schools, and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. For more information, visit usgbc.org and connect on X (formerly Twitter), InstagramFacebook, and LinkedIn.