Embodied Carbon: America’s Next Frontier

Holcim Foundation Impact Summit

Columbia University, New York City, USA | April 4, 2023

The Holcim Foundation Impact Summit brought together key players across the construction and real estate value chains. The goal was to identify innovative ways to accelerate the reduction of embodied carbon for buildings in the US in the short term.

Last updated: April 28, 2023

The Summit was organized to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and drive collective action at a faster pace by convening investors, insurers, owners, developers, firms engaged in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) – as well as government agencies and non-profits, academics and philanthropic organizations. “The genesis of this event was to bring people together who don’t normally leave their silos so they could figure out how to collectively make things happen faster,” explains Kate Ascher, Board Member Holcim Foundation and Milstein Professor of Urban Development, at Columbia University.

During the Summit, participants collectively selected and agreed upon a set of actionable ideas, developed across three workshops, aimed at accelerating the adoption of low carbon materials and solutions for North America’s buildings in the short term. From standards alignment and policy to data and benchmarking, participants of the Summit are now encouraged to contribute to the suggested initiatives that can create a tangible impact in the next 1-2 years. One such initiative – to scope the alignment of embodied carbon calculation methodologies – has received funding from the Holcim Foundation and Columbia University and will be taken up by members of the existing embodied carbon alignment group in the US, composed of non-profit organizations Architecture 2030, Building Transparency, Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF), International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and US Green Building Council (USGBC).

  • A lot of real estate owners aren’t quite there yet on measuring and benchmarking the emissions that are embedded in their buildings.

    Duane J Desiderio, The Real Estate Roundtable

  • This convening has brought together stakeholders from across the building industry and it’s critically important we leverage every opportunity to drive progress in addressing the climate crisis.

    Peter Templeton, US Green Building Council

  • There are so many experts working on amazing initiatives, and they need an opportunity to come together and create an impact now!

    Laura Viscovich, Executive Director Holcim Foundation

  • It’s been beneficial to talking to people in other parts of the construction industry and understanding what these issues really mean to them.

    Chris Magwood, Rocky Mountain Institute

Attendees praised the Holcim Foundation for bringing together actors from across the construction and real estate value chains for the first time to develop pathways to reducing embodied carbon in the US building sector. “The diversity of perspectives revealed challenges not previously understood yet easily overcome with existing solutions residing in an industry silo”, noted one participant.

“The most exciting thing to come out of the Impact Summit is the notion that embodied carbon can be translated onto the balance sheet of companies,” noted Ché Wall of Flux Consultants - highlighting the importance of enabling the true carbon footprint of buildings to be measured and managed. Meghan Lewis from The Carbon Leadership Forum, also sees the potential impact of “all this measurement and data to motivate change, and the Holcim Foundation supports that conversation so we can focus on these unique challenges.”

The Impact Summit created an opportunity for collaboration across the sector. “Through its network, the Holcim Foundation can put experts in the room and facilitate a coming together so that the magic of collaboration happens,” said Maria Atkinson, Chairperson of the Holcim Foundation.