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April 15, 2024

2021 Carbon Leadership Forum Material Baseline Report (version 2)

Carlisle, S., Waldman, B., Lewis, M., and Simonen, K. (2021).  2021 Carbon Leadership Forum Material Baseline Report, (version 2). Carbon Leadership Forum, University of Washington. Seattle, WA. July 2021. University of Washington ResearchWorks Archive.

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The building industry has an essential role to play in tackling climate change associated with building construction and materials manufacturing. Our present understanding of the importance of embodied carbon has been enabled by rigorous quantitative modeling that tracks carbon emissions across the full life of materials and products, using life cycle assessment (LCA). In recent years, the building industry has adopted LCA as the globally accepted method for evaluating and communicating environmental impacts, and applied these methods to the study of materials, products, and assemblies. LCA data and results are essential for guiding science-based efforts to decarbonize buildings and infrastructure.

The Carbon Leadership Forum is part of a broad movement working to drive down the embodied carbon of building materials and products by encouraging the disclosure of high-quality embodied carbon data by manufacturers. It is essential that designers, owners, and policymakers have access to verified, third-party reviewed and published data on building materials and products in order to facilitate procurement decisions, set decarbonization targets, and inform design. One tool for achieving this goal has been the collection and use of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to inform decision-making.

The development of a material baseline originated in support of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3). The EC3 Baseline was originally published in 2019. This document supersedes the baseline dated May 2020. The EC3 tool and its open-access database of digital EPDs are one source for accessing and evaluating available EPDs and the relative carbon impacts that they report. Such databases support designers, owners, and policymakers in selecting low-carbon products during procurement and design. These databases are dynamic, updated constantly as new products are added and upstream data on key processes, such as carbon intensity of regional electricity grids, are revised.