The 2030 Challenge: Healthy Building with Low Carbon Products

Bill Walsh | February 14, 2011

Today, Architecture 2030 is issuing the 2030 Challenge for Products, a plan to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the manufacturing and transportation of building products. The Healthy Building Network and BuildingGreen will support the initiative, helping the A&D community play an active role in this ambitious project to transform the building product industry. BuildingGreen will act as the information hub for the Challenge, devoting a webpage to embodied carbon issues that will provide information about the Challenge, news on efforts to develop Product Category Rules (which underlie the measurement effort) and a forum to discuss them. As the data are developed, we will score products against the 2030 Challenge in Pharos, and include this as part of multi-attribute GreenSpecPharos product evaluations.

At HBN, we've long been concerned about the significance of climate change gas emissions in the building product manufacturing sector and have been concerned about the lack of useful data and consistent guidelines for carbon calculations that have hampered efforts to assess carbon footprints of products. This initiative has the potential to generate the type of credible and transparent carbon information needed to fill an important gap in our understanding of building product impacts on the environment and human health. Paralleling their ambitious 2006 Challenge for carbon neutrality in building energy, the 2030 Challenge for Products calls for the architecture and building community to work together to specify, design, and manufacture products with carbon equivalent footprints that are 30% below product category averages with progressively tougher targets every five years reaching 50% by 2030. (Importantly, the "carbon equivalent footprint" measures not just carbon emissions, but other greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.)

"If industry can rise to that challenge, the resulting carbon footprint information on products could provide a useful powerful tool for the A&D community to use to select lower climate impact products and spur improvement across the industry," says Tom Lent, Policy Director for HBN. "Placing the product carbon ranking side by side with the toxicity and renewable content information that Pharos already provides for building products will help ensure that carbon improvements don’t come through the use of toxic materials at the cost of human health."