Low- and no-cost measures can significantly reduce embodied carbon in mid-rise commercial office, multifamily, and tilt-up-style buildings, according to Rocky Mountain Institute.
Whole-building design, material substitution, and specification strategies can chop embodied carbon by 24% to 46% in those building types at cost premiums of less than 1%, the Institute says. A recent report by the Institute focused on carbon embodied in structural elements, which accounts for about 80% of a structure’s embodied carbon.
Whole-building design can have the biggest impact on embodied carbon, the report says. Material substitution and specification can also result in substantial embodied carbon savings, especially when targeting carbon-intensive materials such as concrete and steel.
A building’s structure and substructure typically make up the largest sources of up-front embodied carbon—as much as 80%. But the relatively rapid renovation cycle of building interiors associated with tenancy and turnover can account for a similar percentage of emissions over the lifetime of a building.