September 27, 2023   

USGBC Aims to Decarbonize Building Construction Industry

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U.S. Green Building Council issues new report highlighting key actions and embodied carbon guidelines


On Tuesday, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and RMI (founded as Rocky Mountain Institute) released the report "Driving Action on Embodied Carbon in Buildings" to answer current questions about embodied carbon emissions and outline key actions to accelerate the decarbonization of the U.S. building construction sector.

rmi-chart-carbon-usgbc cover.jpgThe two organizations draw from a comprehensive foundation of research based on the most up-to-date and relevant data and industry knowledge to establish a set of recommendations and actions for embodied carbon, including:

  • The state of the data on embodied carbon

  • The opportunity to reduce embodied carbon from standard building practices

  • Current and emerging benchmarking standards

  • The carbon intensity of specific materials

  • Embodied carbon savings potential from reuse, recycling and circularity

  • Assessments of emerging and future low-embodied-carbon technologies


USGBC and RMI’s work will address embodied carbon emissions from building materials and be used to inform the regular development process for LEED v5, the next version of USGBC’s LEED rating system. Updates on the development of LEED v5will be shared this week at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. LEED is the premier green building rating system that sets standards for sustainable building design, construction and operations. RMI brings deep expertise in embodied carbon to the table through its multi-year Embodied Carbon Initiative and is collaborating with USGBC to ensure that the approaches taken have as much impact as possible across the real estate industry.




“RMI is excited to work together with USGBC, providing relevant, cutting-edge research and information on reducing embodied carbon emissions as the rating system continues to push the building industry to be part of the climate solution by providing tangible approaches to achieve high-performance projects that are good for business and the planet,” said RMI’s Victor Olgyay, a carbon-free buildings expert at RMI.

“Addressing embodied carbon emissions in the building and construction sector is a challenge that will require an industry-wide approach and working with leading institutions like RMI,” said Melissa Baker, senior vice president at USGBC. “Our work together aims to provide recommendations and key takeaways to inform standard practices that will help us meet our global climate goals.”

The buildings and construction sector account for nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Embodied carbon emissions alone are 11% of GHG emissions, representing millions of tons of carbon emissions released during the life cycle of building materials, including extraction, manufacturing, transport, construction and disposal.

As this critical area of high-performance building design comes into focus for more architects, designers and builders, the collaboration between USGBC and RMI will guide best practices in low-embodied-carbon solutions while fostering rapid uptake and better decision-making informed by the latest research.


See the full report »