Established in January 2020 and granted 501(c) nonprofit status in December 2020, Building Transparency offers a suite of open access data and tools that support the building industry in addressing the role of embodied carbon — the CO2 emitted in producing materials — in climate change.
Through these free and easy-to-use resources, Building Transparency aims to help reduce embodied carbon emissions in the fight against global warming and foster a better building future. The announcement of these resources coincides with an expected greater focus on the climate emergency, the challenges within the built environment, and opportunities to make progress under President Joe Biden’s administration.
Building Transparency was formed by leaders of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool. The Carbon Leadership Forum incubated the tool, led the project’s management and, with input from nearly 50 industry partners, established Building Transparency to continue the management and development of the EC3 tool, as well as provide the resources and education necessary to ensure its adoption.
The organization is managed by a Board of Directors that is responsible for ensuring its programs are effective, ethical, and serve its mission in the public interest. Board members include leaders from several global organizations, including Skanska, the Carbon Leadership Forum, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, C Change Labs, Facebook, Interface, Inc., Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Autodesk.
“The building and construction sector is responsible for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it has potential for incredible impact on eliminating carbon and positively affecting climate change,” said Stacy Smedley, Chair and Executive Director of Building Transparency. “Recognizing this significant opportunity, the Building Transparency Board includes members from some of the most climate-conscious, progressive organizations who recognize the importance of being models for change in the building industry.”
The EC3 Tool
The result of nearly 50 building industry partners coming together, the EC3 tool is a free and easy to use tool that allows benchmarking, assessment and reductions in embodied carbon, focused on the upfront supply chain emissions of construction materials. It is powered by building material quantities from construction estimates and/or BIM models and a robust database of digized third-party verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), which are technical documents about the environmental impact of making a product, including carbon footprint. The EC3 tool can be implemented in both the design and procurement phases of a construction project to look at overall embodied carbon emissions, enabling the specification and procurement of low carbon options.
An official Building Transparency program, materialsCAN (Carbon Action Network) includes members of the global building industry that are ready to act on the smart prioritization of embodied carbon in building materials. The Network aims to improve embodied carbon awareness via client, industry, and external partnerships.
OpenEPD and Open North American LCI Database/LCA Dataset
In addition to the EC3 tool, Building Transparency is currently piloting two additional standard, free and open-access resources for the building industry:
- OpenEPD is an open standard digital format for EPDs, designed for easy integration into Program Operator workflows and transfer into EPD databases, including the EC3 tool. It follows OpenAPI 3.0 standard.
- Open North American LCI Database/LCA Dataset is intended for major, high-impact structural, envelope and MEP (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) material categories. The LCI Database is designed for potential use in EPD generation in standard format, while the LCA Dataset is designed for easy integration into early design and modeling tools, via API.
“At Building Transparency, we are very intentional in our decision to give away data for free,” added Smedley. “Until recently, varying numbers of EPDs were published across several different types of databases and couldn’t be easily evaluated or compared. In order to be serious about climate change, the building industry needed to make a change, and align around open-access, free tools and data.”
Enabling Smart Policy
Building Transparency advances its mission by supporting procurement policy development and implementation at the city, county, state and federal level. Further, the organization assists with globally-recognized green building initiatives, including LEED’s Low Carbon Procurement Pilot Credit and ILFI Zero Carbon Certification.
“We want policy leaders to be aware of our tools and data and recognize that we are a resource – you don’t have to start from scratch,” said Smedley. “From the Biden administration to local government, we look forward to helping policymakers implement critical policy that will rethink how we build in the future.”