How Structural Engineers Can Get Involved with Embodied Carbon Reductions in their Projects

  1. When talking to clients, communicate excitement, knowledge, and desire to reduce embodied carbon. From these conversations, a client may think of you as a preferred partner/consultant on projects actively working to reduce embodied carbon.
  2. When writing a proposal for a new project, ask the client if the structural fee should include a whole building life cycle assessment (WBLCA) or attendance at sustainability charrettes. If the client and structural engineering firm have an established budget on the project for analysis and discussions on embodied carbon, the client will be more inclined to ask the structural engineer questions on embodied carbon. Clearly define the scope and deliverables for an WBLCA and tracking of embodied carbon reductions related to structural materials.
  3. For new construction projects targeting LEED certification, encourage the client and architect to pursue LEED v4.1 Materials and Resources Credit 1 (MRc1). Advocate for conducting a WBLCA and why it is beneficial beyond the LEED credits. Some benefits of a WBLCA include identifying environmental hot spots in the design (areas of high environmental impact) and actual measurements of embodied carbon reductions, which is advantageous to the environment and the goal of achieving net-zero embodied carbon set forth by AIA 2030 and SE2050.
  4. Be able to provide your clients rough estimates of embodied carbon associated with typical structural systems and embodied carbon associated with building materials during meetings. Numbers can be obtained from research on average embodied carbon associated with structural systems (see the Resource tab on and industry-wide environmental product declarations.
  5. Ask to be involved in sustainability design charrettes for a project. Be an active participant with ideas and suggestions on how the structural system can be sustainable with options to reduce the embodied carbon on the project.
  6. Ask the architect or client if there is a carbon budget for the project. A carbon budget, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that can be emitted while still having a likely chance of limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
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