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Erin Heidelberger Presents on Whole Building Life Cycle Analysis at AIANY Decarbonization Symposium

On November 10, the KPF Environmental Performance Analyst presented research on embodied carbon in KPF’s 17xM office building project.

In the seminar, titled “A Case Study on Structural Systems and the Impact of Height,” Erin and Jordan Woodson, PE, Associate Structural Engineer at Arup, examined a whole building life cycle assessment of 17xM, a new 300,000-square-foot office building in Washington, D.C. They explored how alternative structural systems, such as steel and timber, might offer potential carbon savings compared with the post-tensioned concrete buildings standard in the nation’s capital and how such alternative materials would impact potential building heights. Even working with a typical post-tensioned concrete design, the 17xM design team was able to reduce embodied carbon emissions across the project’s structure by 15% by using low-carbon concrete that replaces 20% of the mixture’s carbon-intensive cement with alternative materials.

KPF and Arup conducted this research with the knowledge that selecting building materials is one of the most consequential decisions architects can make from an environmental perspective. The production of common materials like glass, steel, and concrete creates vast amounts of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming emissions, and up to 12% of the earth’s total carbon emissions result from manufacturing, transporting, installing, and eventually disposing of building materials.

The seminar was a part of the AIA New York’s professional development symposium, titled “The Pursuit of Decarbonization: Sustainability, Resiliency, Design, and Policy,” held on Friday, November 10 at the Center for Architecture in New York City. Other topics of discussion included climate resiliency, breakthroughs in low-carbon building materials, and the shifting policy landscape around building emissions. Learn more here.