News: California becomes the first state to limit embodied carbon
By Kate Hinsche (The Real Deal) -- California became the first state in the nation to codify limits on embodied carbon in buildings, a move experts say is crucial for mitigating climate change.
Earlier this month, the California Building Standards Commission unanimously approved amendments to the green building code approved last year, Dezeen reported. The changes go into effect July 1 next year, and apply to commercial building projects over 100,000 square feet and school projects over 50,000 square feet, according to AIA California.
"It can take up to 80 years to overcome embodied carbon's impact through strategies that reduce energy usage or operational carbon; the planet doesn't have that time," AIA California president Scott Gaudineer told the outlet.
The new building code lays out three paths to compliance, according to AIA California. One incentivizes building reuse, where compliance can be achieved by utilizing 45 percent of an existing structure. The other compliance options are based on using low-emission materials or by conducting a Whole Building Lifecycle Assessment.
Embodied carbon refers to the emissions from building materials and construction, which amounts to about 11 percent of global emissions every year. Growing awareness of real estate's impact on climate has brought attention to the issue of embodied carbon in recent years.
Real estate's carbon footprint falls into two categories: operating emissions and embodied carbon. Combined, they amount to 40 percent of the world's annual emissions. Operational emissions, or the carbon impact of using a building, can be reduced with renewable energy sources and increased building efficiency.
On the other hand, embodied carbon is a sunk cost. The only way to mitigate its impact is to limit total embodied carbon from the start of a project, or to buy carbon offsets.
William Leddy, vice president of climate action for AIA California, wants the code changes to apply to smaller buildings as well, he told the outlet.
"The idea here is that eventually, it will also include a residential scale," Leddy told the publication.