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Greenbuild 2019 Roundup - Embodied Carbon

Find out how embodied carbon impacts the build environment and how UL can help you understand your buildings’ carbon footprint.

Man in suit jacket touching a CO2 icon with his fingertip to indicate embodied carbon.

January 15, 2020

While the built environment community is familiar with the issues of operational carbon, embodied carbon is gaining more attention as an important piece of the carbon emissions puzzle. At Greenbuild 2019, this was an important topic of conversation throughout presentations and panels.

Embodied carbon emissions make up a large part of emissions coming from the construction industry, with some estimates indicating 20-50% of the carbon emissions from a new building.1 And unlike operational carbon, once embodied carbon emissions are released there is no opportunity to improve.1 Professionals in the built environment have many opportunities to reduce embodied carbon, and understanding it is the first step needed to make improvements.

Design teams have the largest role to play in limiting embodied carbon for new buildings, and a good place to start is using Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). EPDs contain the life cycle assessment information of products, including carbon footprint information. Understanding the carbon footprint of each product in your building can help architects and designers make smarter decisions, lowering the carbon footprint of their projects.

For projects in California, the Buy Clean California Act requires that projects submit EPDs to demonstrate that materials do not exceed the maximum acceptable Global Warming Potential (GWP) set by the California Department of General Services. This requirement went into effect on all projects Jan. 1, 2020.

To find products with carbon footprint information, search the UL SPOT Product Database of certified EPDs.

To find out more about UL SPOT, contact UL today.

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  1.,, Dec. 10 2019