Buildings alone account for 40% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Two-thirds of that total impact is from operational emissions while the remainder is from embodied emissions. Embodied emissions include all the emissions required to produce everything that goes into our buildings – the structure, enclosure, and all the materials inside. Until recently, the focus in the building design community has been on reducing operational emissions since they represent a bigger piece of the pie. But as we have driven down operational emissions through smarter designs, there has been a shift to focus on the remainder that is due to embodied carbon.

Between now and 2050, we are going to add about 2 billion people to this planet and close to double the square footage of the built environment. In this short time period, half of the new construction emissions between now and then will be from embodied carbon. Our community cannot ignore this any longer and meet the goals set forth by the IPCC and the Paris agreement to essentially decarbonize the building industry by 2050. Therefore, the industry has begun to take action, and groups like AIA 2030, Architecture 2030, SE2050, and USGBC have shifted their focus to include embodied carbon.

In order to address this issue, we need to take steps to quantify and then reduce our impact. We can do this using a process called Whole Building Lifecycle Assessment (WBLCA). The goal of the WBLCA is to reduce the embodied impacts of a building by quantifying the environmental impacts of structure and enclosure. In addition to or in lieu of WBLCA, designers can perform embodied carbon studies to quantify this one environmental impact. New tools like EC3 are very user-friendly and simple to use to perform these studies. There are several tools and guidelines that exist to help practitioners in this process to achieve this credit and reduce embodied carbon.

This event is a part of AIA Georgia’s Advocacy Week.

Learning objectives

Participants will learn about:

  1. Embodied carbon and why it is relevant to the building design and construction community
  2. How embodied carbon is relevant to AIA 2030
  3. Tools that can be used to study embodied carbon and perform LCA studies
  4. Steps design teams considering pursuing the LCA in rating systems can take to incorporate LCA into their design process

1 LU credit


Kelly Roberts, PE, LEED AP BD+C
Principal and Project Manager, Walter P Moore