UW Today

February 14, 2011

Carbon Leadership Forum will devise standards to limit carbon footprints in building products

University of Washington researchers have teamed with design and construction professionals to devise standards that will help limit carbon footprints of building products and systems.

Organized as the Carbon Leadership Forum, the group is hosted by the UW College of Built Environments.

The standards are expected to help people in the building industry meet the 2030 Challenge for Products. Launched today, the challenge calls for dramatically reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions related to manufacture and transportation of construction materials.

“Without good data, clear standards and industry collaboration, we will not be able to accurately predict and reduce the carbon impact of building materials and products,” said Kate Simonen, a UW assistant professor of architecture and executive director of the Carbon Forum. “The 2030 Challenge for Products provides critical leadership to motivate development of low-carbon industries and rigorous environmental performance standards.

“Ambitious targets for carbon reduction cannot be met by increasing energy efficiency alone,” Simonen added. “Designers and builders are missing key information they need to evaluate and specify low-carbon products.”

The 2030 Challenge for Products emerged from Architecture 2030, a nonprofit focused on reducing greenhouse gases emitted by buildings and construction products. According to Architecture 2030, the building sector is responsible for almost half of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. with, 5 percent to 8 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and associated emissions tied to manufacturing and transporting building products.

Architecture 2030 launched the initial 2030 Challenge five years ago, focusing on operational efficiency of buildings, but along the way, people realized that the life cycle of building products is crucially important.

The 2030 Challenge for Products directs that designers specify and manufacturers develop building products to meet gradually more stringent standards. Challenge organizers aim for a 50-percent reduction in carbon-equivalent footprint by 2030. To begin making that happen, the Carbon Leadership Forum will spend the next two years developing industry standards and product averages. As part of their work, forum members will devise product category rules to enable comparisons of materials from different manufacturers.

Webcor Builders, a general contractor based in San Mateo, Calif., and Climate Earth, an environmental accounting firm based in San Francisco, initiated the Carbon Leadership Forum.

Design firms supporting the Forum include EHDD Architecture of San Francisco; Loisos + Ubbelohde Architecture and Energy of Alameda, Calif; and Design AVEnues of Pacifica, Calif. Structural engineers include Magnusson and Klemencic Associates (MKA) of Seattle and Tipping Mar and Associates of Berkeley, Calif. Manufacturers include Serious Materials of Sunnyvale, Calif. and U.S. Concrete Inc.s northern California division, Central Concrete.  Building industry nonprofits include the Ecological Building Network of San Rafael, Calif. and the Northern California Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.  In addition, the Forum includes Navitas Capital, a Berkeley based venture capital firm.

The forum will add more firms, industry organizations, research institutions, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations in coming months.

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For more information, contact Kate Simonen at ksimonen@uw.edu or 206-685-7282; Steven Fruhwirth at sfruhwirth@webcor.com or 650-349-2727; Frankie Ridolfi at frankie@climateearth.com or 415-391-2725.