The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has responded in a number of different ways to the calls issued by the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) to reduce embodied carbon. Across the industry, there are many different levels of commitment to embodied carbon reduction and tracking. This article will provide a high-level summary of some of the major organizations, movements, and commitments.

Carbon Leadership Forum

According to their vision statements, the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) is a group working towards the decarbonization of the building industry, striving to “eliminate embodied carbon in buildings and infrastructure by inspiring innovation through collective action.”

From the CLF team:

The Carbon Leadership Forum accelerates the transformation of the building sector to radically reduce the embodied carbon in building materials and construction through collective action.

We pioneer research, create resources, foster cross-collaboration, and incubate member-led initiatives to bring embodied carbon emissions of buildings down to zero.

We are architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers, building owners, and policymakers who care about the future and are taking bold steps to decarbonize the built environment, with a keen focus on eliminating embodied carbon from buildings and infrastructure.

CLF publishes annual impact results, as well as aggregating baseline data for embodied carbon impacts. CLF also develops the free Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool, which is the primary source of Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) data for cove.tool’s embodied carbon feature.

AIA 2030

The AIA 2030 Commitment “is an actionable climate strategy that gives us a set of standards and goals for reaching net zero emissions in the built environment.” The AIA asks firms and practitioners to sign on to the 2030 Commitment Letter in order to create accountability in sustainable design. The Commitment requires a Sustainability Action Plan and data reporting through the Design Data Exchange (DDx), and also provides signatory firms with educational resources to help achieve their goals.

AIA 2030 works with CLF to provide an embodied carbon toolkit for architects. As of December of 2022, the DDx does not require embodied carbon reporting, but it does provide the framework for optional embodied carbon reporting.

MEP 2040

As a response to the CLF Carbon Challenge in 2021, the MEP 2040 Challenge was built by a group of engineers in order to pursue a path to net zero in the MEP industry specifically. The MEP 2040 Commitment is characterized by four steps:

  1. Establish a company plan

  2. Request low-GWP refrigerants

  3. Request EPDs

  4. Participate in MEP 2040 Forums

The MEP 2040 Commitment is now led independently of CLF by the MEP 2040 Steering Committee.

The MEP 2040 Challenge:

“All systems engineers shall advocate for and achieve net zero carbon in their projects: operational carbon by 2030 and embodied carbon by 2040.”

SE 2050

The Structural Engineering Institute’s (SEI) commitment to net zero is titled SE 2050, and offers the following mission statement:

The mission of the SE 2050 Commitment is to support the SE 2050 Challenge and transform the practice of structural engineering in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project based, and data-driven. By prioritizing reduction of embodied carbon, through the use of less and/or less impactful structural materials, participating firms can more easily work toward net zero embodied carbon structural systems by 2050.

SE 2050 provides the Embodied carbon Order of Magnitude (ECOM) estimator, embodied carbon intensity diagrams, national trends, and streamlined data reporting. SE 2050 asks signatory firms to build embodied carbon action plan, which are publicly available. The SE 2050 team also maintains the SE 2050 Database, which includes data from signatory firms on building embodied carbon that will be “used to inform industry benchmarks and targets.”

like AIA 2030 and MEP 2040, SE 2050 provides a significant repository of industry-specific embodied carbon information and education designed to help structural engineers guide projects and firms towards net zero goals.

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