Call it a confluence of thinking, multiple discovery, or group consciousness, but a growing focus on accelerating climate-responsive design and building is gripping the built environment community. This is far different from the urge to beat other folks to market with innovation: We are trying to quicken the pace of change together.

Architecture 2030 is a part of one such collection of organizations and professional commitment groups engaged in gathering embodied carbon data from the built environment for professional carbon-reduction commitment programs and certification systems, as well as other awareness and engagement activities. This collection also includes Building Transparency, the Carbon Leadership Forum, the International Living Future Institute, and the U.S. Green Building Council, along with representatives from The American Institute of Architects (through its Materials Pledge and 2030 Commitment), the Contractor’s Commitment, the Climate Positive Design Challenge, the American Society of Landscape Architects Climate Action Plan, the MEP 2040 Commitment, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure 2050, and the Structural Engineering Institute’s SE 2050 Commitment.

There is movement happening within many of the allied professions that make up the built environment community. It is time to unite them all.

Our team at Architecture 2030 expects that concentric circles of engagement will develop. Together, these organizations are exploring streamlined embodied-carbon data collection and reporting. By speaking with a harmonized voice, we aim to accelerate decarbonization and develop awareness around solutions that building materials can achieve. We anticipate that this collaboration will speed the built environment toward positive environmental outcomes through design practices and material choices. We can move faster together. Embodied carbon—and whole life carbon—is a critical area of focus. In fact, the entire industry sits at an important juncture: Reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment is possible, but it will require collaboration to foment the needed market transformation toward regenerative carbon strategies in the coming years and decades.

One example of that collaboration manifested this spring. Aiming to holistically address reduction of embodied carbon in U.S. buildings, the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction organized its Impact Summit at Columbia University in New York, uniting leaders across the real estate value chain—investors, insurers, owners, developers, and AEC firms—with government agencies, nonprofits, and academic and philanthropic organizations. This summit offered participants an opportunity to abandon industry silos and discuss ideas and actions that could drive rapid change.

Promising movement in the U.S. government makes this moment especially important. The need to address carbon emissions in the built environment has been propelled by a groundswell of action across industries including the recent Buy Clean components of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which includes a $350 million allocation to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for programs to lower the emissions and embodied carbon linked to the “production, use, and disposal of construction materials and products,” according to the EPA.

There is already significant progress in other regions of the world. Take, for example, work in the U.K., involving the collaboration of a host of industry organizations and NGOs, on the Built Environment Carbon Database, which envisions becoming “the main source of carbon estimating and benchmarking for the U.K. construction sector and a practical instrument to support the decarbonization of the built environment,” according to the BECD website.

Now is the time for radical collaboration. The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report provided dire findings. Existing climate-related loss and damage will likely continue and worsen; however, the opportunity to slow warming and limit or prevent irrevocable impacts remains. There is movement happening within many of the allied professions that make up the built environment community. It is time to unite them all.

This article first appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of ARCHITECT.

Read more on building a greener world: Can We Halve Carbon in the Built Environment? | The Race to Decarbonize Buildings Is On. | Building on the Best of COP27. | Carbon intelligence for reuse decisions.