EC3 tool: Developers assert it empowers users to learn how buildings and infrastructure can radically reduce embodied carbon

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool launched in public beta version last Tuesday at Greenbuild in Atlanta, GA. EC3 proponents say in a statement that the tool gives the building industry a powerful means to take action on an area of growing concern: embodied carbon emissions of building materials.

This free, open-access tool, based on the industry’s first database of digitized Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), will allow architects, engineers, owners, construction companies, building material suppliers and policy makers users to easily evaluate and reduce embodied carbon emissions from construction materials, effectively empowering them to reduce embodied carbon within buildings at scale.

See additional resources describing how to implement the EC3 tool here.

The building and construction sector have a vital role to play in eliminating carbon, as it is responsible for nearly 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Architecture 2030 reports that between now and 2060 the world’s population will double the amount of building floor-space, equivalent to building an entire New York City every month for 40 years. Much of the carbon footprint of these new buildings will take the form of embodied carbon — the emissions associated with material production and building construction.

In fact, Architecture 2030 reports that embodied carbon will be responsible for almost half of total new construction emissions between now and 2050. Unlike operational carbon emissions, which can be reduced over time with building energy-efficiency renovations and the use of renewable energy, embodied carbon emissions are locked in place as soon as a building is built.

“It is critical that owners, designers, engineers, contractors, and policy makers turn their attention to building materials and seek information that will pave the way to reduce embodied carbon,” said Kate Simonen, director of the Carbon Leadership Forum and professor in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington. “Recognizing this imperative, the Carbon Leadership Forum and nearly 50 industry leaders came together to offer their expertise, committed to a tool that was free to use and part of a growing open-access embodied carbon data ecosystem.”

Industry firsts

The EC3 tool is the first free tool that allows for supply chain specific analysis of embodied carbon data, utilizing the first searchable and sortable database of all United States and Canadian Environmental Product Declarations for concrete, steel, wood, glass, aluminum, insulation, gypsum, carpet and ceiling tiles.

In addition, the EC3 tool is revolutionizing the EPD process. It is the first tool to create a digital EPD form and to translate all EPDs into that form for viewing and analyzing the data. Prior to the introduction of this free, open-access EPD database and visualization features, users were hampered with PDF-based EPDs.

Users can now easily estimate upfront embodied carbon emissions associated with material production and construction processes. By enabling simple visualization of a project’s potential and realized embodied carbon impacts, along with the ability to see baselines and set reduction targets, users can accelerate the industry’s efforts to address the problem of embodied carbon on a global scale.

EC3 Tool highlights

  • Digital decision-making tool to inform construction material assessment and “buy” decisions aligned with embodied carbon project performance goals.
  • Free open-access web tool allows benchmarking, assessment and reductions in embodied carbon, focused on the upfront emissions associated with manufacturing building materials and construction.
  • Utilizes building materials quantities from construction estimates and/or BIM models and a robust database of building materials products sortable by embodied carbon. Database is based on third-party verified, digitized Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
  • Centralizes information from a multiplicity of suppliers.
  • Powered by the data, the EC3 tool can be implemented in both the design and procurement phases of a construction project to look at a project’s overall embodied carbon emissions and potential savings, as well as sort and evaluate material manufacturers’ embodied carbon emissions in each category, enabling the specification and procurement of the lowest-carbon options.
  • Owners, green building certification systems and policymakers can easily asses supply chain data to create EPD requirements, and set embodied carbon limits and reductions, at the construction material and project scale.
  • The tool and its subsequent effect on the industry are driving demand for low-carbon solutions and incentivizing construction materials manufacturers and suppliers to invest in disclosure, transparency and material innovations that reduce the carbon emissions of their products.
  • The EC3 tool is an industry tool, built by and for the entire industry. Data entered by each respective company in their individual Building Planner is secure and confidential.
  • The EC3 tool is built with industry stakeholder input and will continue to evolve in order to meet user needs and incorporate improving data and methods.

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