Materials

The global economy is largely based on the extraction and use of the full range of materials that come from and return to the Earth such as wood, minerals, fuels, chemicals, plants and animals, soil, and rock. The United States in particular uses huge and increasing amounts of materials. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “With less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. was responsible for about one-third of the world’s total material consumption in 1970-1995.”

Embodied carbon is the carbon footprint of a material. It considers how many greenhouse gases (GHGs) are released throughout the supply chain, which may include the extraction of materials from the ground, transport, refining, processing, assembly, use, and end of life. EPA has found that more than 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from production, transportation, use and disposal of material goods.

Embodied carbon emissions make up a large share of the emissions from the construction sector. Cities can encourage extending the life of the materials used in existing buildings, rather than approving demolition and building anew. A further significant amount of carbon emissions is avoided when an existing building is upgraded to improve its energy efficiency and resiliency. Buildings can also be adapted to new functions to minimize emissions, e.g., a shopping center converted to offices.

Material reuse ordinance

Description: In Portland, OR, more than 250 to 300 single-family homes are demolished each year. This produces thousands of tons of waste — a majority of which could be salvaged […]

Material reuse ordinance Read More »

Description: In Portland, OR, more than 250 to 300 single-family homes are demolished each year. This produces thousands of tons of waste — a majority of which could be salvaged

Use low-GHG cement

Description: The climate action plan for King County, WA includes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a criterion in purchasing decisions. King County implemented a tracking mechanism for concrete and cement

Use low-GHG cement Read More »

Description: The climate action plan for King County, WA includes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a criterion in purchasing decisions. King County implemented a tracking mechanism for concrete and cement

Reduce embodied CO2 emissions

Description: Of all building materials, Portland cement – one of the primary components of concrete – has a particularly intense impact on the climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from cement

Reduce embodied CO2 emissions Read More »

Description: Of all building materials, Portland cement – one of the primary components of concrete – has a particularly intense impact on the climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from cement

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