Building construction and use contribute more than 40% of human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases. Structural engineers can play a leading role in reducing carbon emissions by designing structures that emit fewer of these gases during construction, throughout building use, and at end of building life. This report explains the science behind climate change and practical ways structural engineers can help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings. The report sets the stage with an introduction and overview of climate change science. It then examines how buildings contribute to climate change and introduces life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodology.
The report reviews the variability and uncertainties associated with LCA, and then explores LCA data sources and tools, as well as how LCA is incorporated into green rating systems and codes. The carbon dioxide impact of five primary structural materials (concrete, masonry, structural steel, wood, and fiber-reinforced polymers) are assessed, with guidance on how structural engineers can reduce that impact.
A final chapter demonstrates how LCA may be used to understand the carbon dioxide impact of three alternative structural floor framing systems. Structural and architectural engineers, as well as architects, construction managers, and building owners, will consult this report for accurate, practical recommendations on reducing emissions that cause climate change.