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Evaluation of Carbon for ESG and Climate Impact

A well-known tool is coming to the fore in designing real estate projects called Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). LCAs can provide specific data and insights on the carbon impact of real estate design, and this has already taken off in some real estate sectors.

Commercial real estate professionals across the board are seeing widespread interest in the full life cycle assessment of a building’s environmental impact.,From material sourcing, transportation, design, manufacture and occupancy to long-term maintenance and operation,And the LCA is a proven invaluable tool for measuring this.

In some cases, an LCA helps an owner, investor, or designer evaluate alternative scenarios, such as a “no project” comparison, or a rehab or restoration that exceeds only up-front construction costs in terms of carbon impact. Evaluates more.

Ten years ago, when I first started doing LCA studies on some of our Forell-Elsesser projects, it was still a new area for industry, and structural engineers in particular, because of the lack of back-up data. This has changed today, with the advancement of more accurate LCA software and industry information that allows us to more accurately review the embodied energy impact of design decisions on our projects. While Forrell has been doing LCAs for years, sometimes just for our intrinsic goal of best practices, there is now a big push to ask building owners for LCAs and other tools that highlight the environmental aspects of their projects and Let’s move on to the more durable real. Property

This is not just a greenwashing or social reaction, it is also a good business.

There is increasing pressure on developers, project sponsors and owners to demonstrate high-sustainability and low-carbon characteristics. It is coming from above – with institutions and Wall Street necessitating accountability to environmental, social and governance (ESG) and climate-change goals, but it is also coming from below – as will the needs of tenants, users and the city. Leaders call for ‘green building’ carbon reduction strategies.

Global real estate services firm JLL, in its January 2022 return to stability The report points to a sales premium of 11.5 percent for commercial properties that feature climate-resilient features in energy and environmental improvements. JLL said, “From capital raising to buy/sell decisions, underwriting, financing and resilience planning, climate change will affect every part of an asset’s life cycle; it is entering more and more mainstream investor dialogue.” “

Another data-point from November 2021 was that 44 more international corporations signed the Green Building Council’s net-zero commitment, which has the effect of funding investors only those real estate investment partners that are climate-responsive and Let’s pursue pure-zero projects. Increasingly, project sponsors seeking those funding sources will adopt ESG-responsive strategies.

We anticipate that LCAs or equivalents will become a more standard tool for more fully understanding the climate impact of a building, and thus its importance to owners and users, as well as the communities in which they are located.

Forrell’s own research shows that as much as 30 percent of fully embodied carbon is in structural designs and components.

We as structural engineers can help reduce those impacts, and Forrell will soon implement LCA across all of our projects so that we can better track the impact of our decisions and an additional metric in system selection decisions. to use them as. We are using this data in our office to compare different projects to work out trends and determine which is better to focus our efforts on carbon reduction.”

A focus for the firm is on foundation selection, as its internal LCA studies have found it to be the largest source of embodied carbon, regardless of the building’s structural system selection.

For example, depending on the soil of the San Francisco Bay Area, we are often looking for several foundation systems such as spread footings, deep foundation systems, and soil improvements. Understanding the embodied energy of these foundations within the overall project LCA provides our owners with an additional tool in understanding and achieving the project’s sustainability goals.

Lindsey McAllis, SE, LEED AP BD+C, is Head and Head of ESG/Net-Zero Initiatives for Forrell|Elesser Structural Engineers, San Francisco.

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