While carbon emissions are much discussed, Embodied Carbon is a long-neglected subject. Yet as buildings become more efficient, talking about embodied carbon grows in importance.
Anthony Pak, the founder of Embodied Carbon Catalyst, a Vancouver group that empowers industry professionals to address the issue of embodied carbon on their building projects, himself addresses this issue in Embodied Carbon: The Blindspot of the Buildings Industry for Canadian Architect, in which he draws attention to the issue of greenhouse gases released during the construction of new buildings, and the green impact associated with the materials used to construct those buildings.
The IPCC says that, to limit global warming to 1.5°C, carbon emissions must peak in 2020, with the ultimate goal of a global net zero by 2050. Embodied carbon will comprise almost half of new building emissions between now and 2050, and we must deal with embodied carbon to achieve our climate targets.
Pak notes that the LEED is offering points for completing LCAs and lessoning embodied carbon. The Living Building Challenge and the city of Vancouver are also drawing attention to and taking action on this issue. Yet he asserts that one to two decades will pass before it becomes uniform for design teams to reduce embodied carbon. He says we must acknowledge the fact that embodied carbon exists in the atmosphere, not in the structure.