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Focus: 2030 Challenge for Products

Overview

The embodied energy (and embodied carbon) of building materials has always been important, but as we create more energy-efficient buildings, the proportion of total life cycle energy use and carbon emissions associated with manufacture and transport of the materials going into those buildings becomes more significant. Also, reductions in the embodied carbon emissions of materials have an immediate benefit, while the carbon reductions through reducing the building's energy consumption in operations are accrued over a longer period of time. Reducing the embodied carbon emissions of materials has a very important role to play in slowing global climate change as the goal is to reduce the total quantity of carbon dioxide getting into the atmosphere and do it as quickly as possible.

Carbon Footprint of Nylon Carpet

The 2030 Challenge for Products from Architecture 2030 aims to reduce the embodied carbon (meaning the carbon emissions equivalent) of building products by 50% by 2030. Of the total energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., 5%–8% results from the manufacture and transport of building products and the construction of buildings.

To meet the 2030 Challenge for Products, industry leaders are working to develop accurate and comparative data on the embodied carbon pf building products. To allow comparison of products against the 2030 goals requires standardization of the process of measuring embodied carbon. Industry groups are now developing product category rules (PCRs) that define how to undertake a life cycle assessment in a consistent fashion and display its results in an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for any individual product in a building product category. These EPDs provide comparable information on the life cycle impact of a range of environmental flows from building product life cycles, including but not limited to carbon. While focusing attention on carbon, the Challenge will also aid the development of robust measurement systems that will improve our ability to also assess other health and environmental impacts of building products.

This Information Hub, a partnership of BuildingGreen, Architecture 2030, and Healthy Building Network, is intended to provide design professionals, manufacturers, or other interested parties with the information and resources they need to achieve embodied carbon reduction goals.

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Essential Reading

Embodied Carbon: Measuring How Building Materials Affect Climate
Just as operating buildings emits greenhouse gases, buying and installing building materials, product, and appliances causes emissions as well.
Life-Cycle Assessment: Tracing a Product's Impacts
Life-cycle assessment—accounting for all of the environmental impacts of a product from its manufacture to its disposal—is a simple concept, but using it to...
Embodied Energy--Just What Is It and Why Do We Care?
Almost all the attention paid to energy conservation in buildings has focused on reducing their operating energy. Given the energy hogs that many buildings...

Additional Resources

2030 Challenge for Products Guidance Documents

Tools and Calculators

  • BEES provides environmental and economic performance data, including climate change impact, for 230 building products using the life-cycle assessment approach
  • Athena Institute’s EcoCalculator provides LCA results, including climate impact, from hundreds of common building assemblies
  • Athena Institute’s Impact Estimator is a more detailed and flexible version of the Athena EcoCalculator 
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s B-Path is an LCA tool for structural materials in commercial buildings 
  • Rocky Mountain Institute's Green Footstep considers the carbon impacts of construction including landscape impacts, along with operational energy, to help project teams set comprehensive carbon reduction goals
  • Build Carbon Neutral is a simple carbon footprint calculator for buildings
  • GaBi Envision enables manufacturers to integrate LCA into product development

Databases

  • BEES provides environmental and economic performance data, including climate change impact, for 230 building products using the life-cycle assessment approach
  • U.S. LCI contains life cycle inventory (LCI) data modules that can be used in an LCA
  • Bath ICE database from The University of Bath. Click for a summary view of some of the ICE info.
  • EcoInvent is a comprehensive Swiss database that contains mainly European LCI data, but could be used for proxy inputs to augment US data

Standards and Standard Development

Resources For PCRs

Product Category Rules (PCRs) define what must be included in an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for a product, including embodied carbon. The list below identifies resources for finding PCRs and product-specific EPDs. It is our intention to keep this website updated with information on what new PCRs are in development or recently published, and how to find out about PCRs and EPDs that exist today. This is not a screened, vetted, or comprehensive list. We welcome your suggestions for additional, relevant resources to consider.

Completed PCRs including protocols for reporting Embodied Carbon

Architecture 2030 has compiled an aggregated list of PCRs relevant to the building industry. The sites below have aggregated, but not comprehensive, lists of PCRs. Some of these are relevant to the building industry.

Please note that using internationally generated PCRs for U.S. products can leave many judgements outstanding and/or result in significant variation in results based on different assumptions. They are however, an ideal starting point for developing a regionally appropriate PCRs.

Program Operators

These organizations are involved in the development and registration of PCRs and EPDs. Any organization may develop a PCR, however it must be registered by an EPD program operator before it can be used for an EPD, and program operators are often involved in the development process. Each organization is responsible for hosting an updated list of their PCRs and/or EPDs.

LCA Practitioners

A product-specific LCA underlies development of an EPD.

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