About Embodied Carbon

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Embodied carbon refers to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released during the lifecycle of building materials, including extraction, manufacturing, transport, construction, and disposal. Embodied carbon in building construction is estimated to contribute up to 11% of global GHG emissions, and strategies available today can reduce embodied carbon by over 40% (see, e.g., this RMI/USGBC reference).

As an important component of the Labs2Zero program and in the absence of any equivalent resource available today, I2SL added Embodied Carbon Benchmarking to the LBT in Spring 2024. This new module allows users to input and benchmark lab buildings’ embodied carbon emissions, adding to the LBT’s existing functionality relating to buildings’ operational energy and emissions.

The initial embodied carbon benchmarking effort focuses on the building product stage, also known as stages A1 through A3, and in particular on the structure and enclosure of buildings. With this new benchmarking module, I2SL aims to provide new insights to lab owners and designers to help them address laboratory facilities’ unique challenges in reducing embodied carbon emissions. Ultimately, the embodied carbon data in the LBT database will be used to formulate a first-of-its-kind Embodied Carbon Score for lab buildings.

I2SL is actively seeking embodied carbon data for lab buildings to improve the breadth and depth of the LBT’s embodied carbon benchmarking database and to support development of the Embodied Carbon Score for lab buildings.

How to Benchmark Embodied Carbon in Your Lab Buildings

Embodied carbon in buildings is usually measured by performing a life cycle assessment (LCA). Many of today’s new construction projects have LCA data from the design process, in many cases to meet LEED credit requirements (MR Credit Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction in v. 4.1 beta, page 168).

To get started benchmarking your facilities’ embodied carbon in the LBT, please refer to the LBT Embodied Carbon Quick Start Guide. Data input requirements include whole-building LCA results for structure and enclosure (substructure, shell-superstructure, exterior enclosure) for the product stage (A1 through A3) along with lab building details and lab area. Additional optional fields, including LCA results for other lifecycle stages and structural information, can help users refine benchmarking results to compare peer labs with similar functional requirements.

After entering whole-building embodied carbon data, go to the Embodied Carbon Benchmarking page to explore the anonymized peer-group data and use the filters to select a peer group for your facility and compare embodied carbon intensities.

How to Help I2SL Improve Embodied Carbon Benchmarking

To improve embodied carbon benchmarking (and to allow us to develop an embodied carbon score for lab buildings), we need more embodied carbon LCA data. Please enter as much data as you can via the LBT. The LBT data entry portal supersedes the previous spreadsheet data collection method that was used in 2023 and early 2024.

I2SL welcomes all feedback on the Embodied Carbon Benchmarking module. We are particularly seeking feedback from users who have entered their buildings' data in the LBT and used the benchmarking tools. Please send all feedback on the Labs2Zero Embodied Carbon Benchmarking or the LBT to

Looking to Learn More about Embodied Carbon?

The Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) recently released an Embodied Carbon Toolkit for Architects to aid building designers in reducing the built environment’s carbon footprint. You can also check out this article from HOK on embodied carbon in labs, or review EPA’s definition of embodied carbon and plans to develop a labeling program for embodied carbon in building materials.