Embodied carbon for homebuilders... made easy!


Embodied carbon for homebuilders... made easy!

The challenges homebuilders face seem to grow every year. In addition to the business of designing, constructing and selling homes, there is a constant need to keep up with code changes, new regulations and consumer demands. Climate change is bringing additional pressures to build for efficiency and electrification and now, embodied carbon is yet another aspect homebuilders must factor into their business model.

Change is necessary and there are a multitude of economic, performance, and emissions-reducing benefits builders stand to gain by tackling embodied carbon. And help is on the horizon. This April, RMI (founded as Rocky Mountain Institute) is launching the Homebuilders Carbon Action Network (HomebuildersCAN), with the primary purpose of helping homebuilders understand embodied carbon and learn how to measure and reduce it in a productive and profitable way.

HomebuildersCAN was conceived as a “community of practice” where homebuilders and energy raters can engage with experts and peers through online workshops, webinars, and access case studies, tools, guides, standards and more to help them learn about measuring embodied carbon and incorporating it into design and construction strategies.

HomebuildersCAN was introduced in late 2023 with “soft launch” events online and at the EEBA and PHIUS conferences. More than 50 builders and affiliates signed on as early supporters, indicating widespread interest in developing expertise when it comes to embodied carbon.

Early supporters of HomebuildersCAN

Early supporters of HomebuildersCAN

Mattamy Homes, the largest privately-owned homebuilder in North America, is among the program’s early supporters. “We see HomebuildersCAN as the next opportunity to lean in and support our industry as we work through the nascent space that is embodied carbon,” said Phil Santana of Mattamy during the introductory webinar. “We all face the same challenges regarding design, supply, execution and tracking data, and ultimately affordability. We hope HomebuildersCAN can bring the industry together so we can sit at the same table and talk about the goal of decarbonizing our industry.”

Chris Magwood from RMI was a homebuilder for over 25 years and brings that experience to HomebuildersCAN. “When you realize that your industry is responsible for tens of millions of tons of emissions – as much as the entire economies of other countries – the call to action is obvious,” he says. “But this isn’t an issue that gets solved one house at a time, it requires a collective effort across a wide stripe of the industry. That’s what we’re trying to bring together at HomebuildersCAN.”

Summary of studies demonstrating the scale of embodied carbon from new homes in the US

Magwood was a co-author of a 2023 report  that was an early attempt to understand the scale of embodied carbon in homebuilding and how the industry can effectively respond. The good news, he says, is that “there is a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing embodied carbon.”

“It’s not difficult to find 20-40% reductions in embodied carbon through wise material selection and other simple interventions. And many of these will support energy efficiency measures homebuilders are already planning. There are some very straightforward pathways to huge improvements in climate performance at cost parity.”

“There is no need for every homebuilder to learn about embodied carbon alone,” adds program coordinator Tracy Huynh, also from RMI. “Many of the leading solutions apply across the entire sector, and it’s a lot less technical to understand than many people might think.”

The official launch event for HomebuildersCAN on April 3 will be an example of the practical and actionable advice that will benefit members of the group. The launch will feature the results of a study demonstrating the win-win for builders who focus on the airtightness of their homes. Improved airtightness is a leading strategy for operational decarbonization that carries no substantial increase in embodied carbon. “It’s a great example of our focus on what will work in the real world,” says Magwood.

The three goals of HomebuildersCAN

Members will benefit from free, monthly workshops and webinars intended to accelerate understanding and action on embodied carbon, including demonstrations of embodied carbon tools and case studies of low-carbon homes from peers.

The first-ever summit on embodied carbon for homebuilders on October 1st will be a highlight of the year’s scheduled events. It will take place as a pre-conference day ahead of the annual EEBA Summit in Salt Lake City.

Aaron Smith, CEO of EEBA has been a supporter of HomebuildersCAN from the beginning. “I would say decarbonization has become a top priority for the EEBA community, and we’re really excited to support HomebuildersCAN and... bringing some conversation together across all of our stakeholders. It’s time for radical collaboration! ”

Decarbonization efforts are beginning to transform the homebuilding sector, but action on embodied carbon is in its early stages. There is no better time to hop on board for the ride at HomebuildersCAN, along with your peers and a dedicated team of experts.

Don’t miss our virtual launch event on April 3rd! 

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