Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) recently joined other prominent structural engineering firms to urge the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) to formally endorse and develop the SE 2050 Challenge to help address climate change.
The SE 2050 Challenge arose from the work of several structural engineers in collaboration with the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF), which SGH supports as a Gold Sponsor. The initiative is inspired by the AIA 2030 Challenge, which was a response to a declaration from Architecture 2030 to reduce building operational energy consumption to net zero by 2030. Hundreds of architecture firms have signed on to the challenge and agreed to track and improve the energy performance of their projects.
Similarly, the goal of the SE 2050 initiative is to urge structural engineers to help reduce the embodied carbon – the total CO2 emissions associated with construction – of built structures to net zero by 2050. The climate science consensus is that we must reduce global net anthropogenic emissions to zero by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Since structural materials account for roughly half of the embodied carbon in most buildings, and even more in infrastructure projects, structural engineers will be on the front line of achieving this goal. As such, SEI is a logical organization to coordinate this effort. The SEI Sustainability Committee, which I co-chair, has already been working hard over the past year to develop the SE 2050 initiative with the help of many supporters.
Companies that sign on to the SE 2050 Challenge when it is formalized will likely agree to track the structural material quantities and embodied carbon of some portion of their projects and anonymously report these quantities to a database that will aggregate that data. This database will help establish baseline embodied carbon data on a unit-area basis for various building types and locations and track progress towards the net zero goal. The Sustainability Committee and other organizations are working to provide the tools to help structural engineers achieve their carbon reduction goals.
I have also signed the letter of support on the CLF website as an individual. If you support this initiative, I encourage you to sign on, too.
Feel free to contact me for more information, to see how you can get involved, or to discuss how net zero embodied carbon structures are possible. I’d love to hear from you.