Using Life Cycle Assessments to Scale Integrated Carbon Reduction Practices for Buildings and Infrastructure
Northampton, MA –News Direct– WSP
by Teresa Vangeli and Sarah Buffaloe
As employees of WSP USA – one of the world’s leading engineering consulting and professional services firms – and supporters of the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF), we are excited about the growing interest we are seeing in our company and our profession to reduce and eliminate embodied carbon in buildings and infrastructure.
Of course, we have a long way to go to make embodied carbon reduction a priority that ranks alongside safety, function, resiliency, aesthetics, and other design and manufacturing fundamentals. engineering. And we need to go even further to realize the vision of expanding the use of solid wood, plant materials, earth slabs and other innovative strategies to reverse the climate profile of buildings and make them carbon positive.
The new Terminal B project with HOK was a 1.3 million square foot airport addition to the existing airport. The project consisted of a central hall, a mother house, pedestrian walkways and connections to the garage.
We are honored to be part of the CLF community where we can connect with other embodied carbon experts and leading practitioners in our industry. It will take considerable collaboration across sectors and disciplines to significantly reduce embodied carbon in the built environment. We find many reasons for optimism within WSP. As we engage with our colleagues around the world – who now number more than 60,000 – we see a growing understanding and commitment to reducing embodied carbon.
In 2021, WSP USA strengthened its commitment to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, embodied carbon in its structural systems projects by 2050 as a signatory to the Structural Engineering Institute’s (SEI) SE 2050 Commitment Program. The goal of the SEI program is to unite the support of the structural engineering collective industry to drive significant embodied carbon reductions in the design and construction of structural systems.
It starts with life cycle assessments
WSP’s specialist teams focused on climate, resilience and sustainability have been helping clients measure and reduce lifecycle carbon emissions for more than two decades. We perform rigorous analysis for our clients to quantify the embodied carbon and other environmental impacts of their projects and buildings, from data centers and commercial buildings to transportation infrastructure and multi-family housing.
We are now seeing knowledge and expertise on effective and proven techniques to reduce embodied carbon growth at WSP. For example, in the critical area of low-carbon concrete specification, we hear warnings from fellow engineers about the limits of future supplies of fly ash – a common supplemental cementitious material (SCM) with a favorable carbon profile. compared to Portland cement. — due to the declining trajectory of coal-fired power plants (sources of ash) in many regions.
So, as we celebrate decarbonization in the electric power sector, we are reminded of the need to explore and develop other new and emerging SCMs, such as limestone, pozzolans and silica fume.
WSP’s commitment to reducing embodied carbon in the built environment means supporting our clients’ demands for high-performance projects. The recently completed new Terminal B at New York’s La Guardia Airport has achieved LEED v4 Gold certification, including a 16% reduction in embodied carbon by closely reviewing the structural design with the design team.
Through our involvement in CLF and the SE 2050 Commitment, we are working on an Embodied Carbon Action Plan (ECAP) to build the capacity of all WSP structural engineers on how to measure and reduce embodied carbon on construction and infrastructure projects. We find that there are fewer tools and guidance available to support carbon measurement and reduction in infrastructure projects compared to buildings.
Learn from our colleagues
As a global company, we can learn from our WSP colleagues around the world. Last year WSP UK made a bold pledge to halve the carbon emissions of its designs and advice by 2030 (they have now been joined by WSP Sweden, WSP Denmark and WSP New Zealand) . To support this commitment, our UK colleagues have developed methodologies and tools to estimate the carbon emissions of the many types of projects we support. As we develop our ECAP for WSP USA, we can leverage the great work being done across the pond.
We are also witnessing a significant generational change. Recently graduated engineers bring with them a higher level of awareness about what needs to be done for sustainability and resilience in the built environment. Sustainability is now integrated into the standard engineering curriculum. As their idealism meets the experience of senior engineers and embodied carbon becomes a major concern for public and private project developers, we believe we will see a flowering of new ideas and solutions and continued maturation. embodied carbon accounting methods advocated by the CLF. .
Sarah Buffalo is a Built Ecology Associate at WSP USA. She joined the company in November 2014 and resides in Washington, DC. She applies holistic thinking and quantified metrics to implement solutions that meet the wide range of performance goals that each project faces. His five years of majoring in sustainable materials at the US Green Building Council, combined with his three years of experience in architectural design and his academic pursuits in materials research and LCA, give him a unique perspective on materials. of construction, their life cycle and their durability.
Therese Vangeli is director of structures and sustainability at WSP USA. She resides in the Boston area. Vangeli is passionate about integrating sustainable design into the design of buildings and infrastructure. As a Registered Professional Engineer, Structural Discipline, Project Manager, Envision and AP LEED Auditor, she encourages all engineers to get involved in sustainability. She has worked on all types of projects, from airport facilities to tunnels to development master plans across the United States. Vangeli believes that every project can be more sustainable.
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