H.764 – An Act incorporating embodied carbon into state climate policy 768 1024 CORA Structural
H.764 - An Act incorporating embodied carbon into state climate policy

H.764 – An Act incorporating embodied carbon into state climate policy

One of the critical bills that addresses embodied carbon in the state, H.764 An Act incorporating embodied carbon into state climate policy, had a hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on May 17. As summarized on the Massachusetts Climate Action Network’s (MCAN) website, this legislation proposes the following:

  • Establishes a state advisory board to address embodied carbon
  • Requires the Department of Energy Resources to put forward recommendations and best practices for measuring and reducing embodied carbon
  • Requires a report outlining effective regulation strategies for reducing embodied carbon
  • Requires the measurement and reduction of embodied carbon to be incorporated into the stretch and specialized stretch energy code

Several members of the local AEC community provided verbal testimony on behalf of H.764. Participants were given three minutes (which they most definitely held everyone to!) to complete testimony with additional time given to respond to any questions members of the committee might have. Michael Gryniuk, as a local practicing structural engineer and current chair of SE 2050, spent the majority of his allotted time highlighting the embodied carbon associated with conventional structural materials and structural embodied carbon ‘wins’ in the Commonwealth.

We have the technology to make substantive embodied carbon reductions in our structural systems today, right now, without significant impacts to schedule and cost, if done thoughtfully, deliberately, and introduced during the early design phases

Michael Gryniuk, Founder and Principal

The testimony for H.764 took place after testimony for several other bills, which in of itself, was interesting to observe. H.764 had a strong showing with several local practitioners and educators also offering testimony, both in person and through the remote option. We will continue to see how this legislation moves through the committee and work on collectively advocating and educating the legislatures. We’ve already connecting with a few of the legislatures and looking forward to trying to make this bill a reality.

Other legislation making its way through the legislation, and listed on MCAN’s website, are:

  • H.764/S.2090 An Act Incorporating Embodied Carbon into State Climate Policy
    • Sponsors: Rep. Ciccolo & Rep. Owens, Sen Comerford
  • H.3035/S.1981 An Act requiring state procurement of low-carbon building materials
    • Sponsors: Rep. Garballey, Sen Creem
  • S.1982/H.3002 An Act relative to the use of low-embodied carbon concrete in state projects
    • Sponsors: Rep. Cahill, Sen. Creem
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Structures Congress 2023 Wrap-Up

The annual Structures Congress hosted by the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) took place this year in New Orleans, LA, from May 3 to May 6. This is the largest annual structural engineering conference in the United States and allows attendees to learn, engage, and network within the structural engineering community. The Congress serves as an opportunity to learn about the latest technical subjects and Code updates as well as the current and new initiatives being promoted by SEI to better the profession. The Congress is also where the numerous committees and subcommittees gather for face-to-face meetings the day before the Congress officially starts. It was great to engage with old and new colleagues on a full range of topics but in particular embodied carbon and how the structural engineering profession is responding.

To understand just how much focus is being paid to climate change and embodied carbon, one simply needs to evaluate the number of sessions on the subject. Here are a few statistics.

  1. Just under 25% of all technical sessions included mention of climate change in the topics of:
    • Embodied carbon
    • Resilience
    • Conceptual design
    • Code change
    • Thermal bridging
  2. Over 10% of all technical sessions were focused directly on climate change and embodied carbon.
  3. Two out of the three keynote presentations included specific commentary on carbon and the need to consider its measurement and reduction for future climate impacts.

Several of the sessions that discussed embodied carbon also highlighted SEI’s effort in this space by promoting the SE 2050 Commitment Program (https://se2050.org/) that SEI launched in November, 2020. Cora Structural’s Founder and Principal, Michael Gryniuk, who currently serves as Chair of SE 2050, facilitated the annual face-to-face committee meeting on Wednesday, May 3 which included the following items:

  • Update on current status of the Program since launch in November, 2022
    • 117 Signatory Firms
    • 500+ Projects in the SE 2050 Database
    • Over 1,100 newsletter sign ups
  • Reviewed the results of the strategic planning sessions from early 2023
  • Discussed that a key item for future planning is the coordination with the SEI Prestandard for Calculation Methodology for Structural Systems in Whole-Building Life Cycle Assessments currently being developed by the Sustainability Committee
  • Outlined the priority focus areas and deliverables over the next 18 months
  • A broader discussion and brainstorming for the future of SE 2050

As noted there were several technical sessions that highlighted the impacts of climate change on the structural engineering profession. Of particular note was a session on the upcoming 2028 version of ASCE/SEI 7 (Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures). The session reviewed a new section to be included (non-mandatory) that would include ‘future conditions to account for load changes due to climate change’. The new section is in the early stages of development and the content is not yet set, however, it is understood that the loads would be based on design life and dependent on risk category among other items. As one might imagine, the topic fostered a healthy debate on when an owner might want to include such design considerations, how the level of design loads would be established, how such design future loading conditions might impact present costs, and a lengthy discussion on risk mitigation and liability. And to what extent the structural engineer should or shall be involved.

Cora Structural Joins SE 2050! 750 181 CORA Structural

Cora Structural Joins SE 2050!

Cora Structural is pleased to announce that we have joined SE 2050! We join over 115 other like-minded firms who have made the commitment to address the climate emergency through our daily practice. We couldn’t be any more thrilled to contribute to this critically important Program within the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The Program mission of “transforming the practice of structural engineering in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project based, and data-driven” is in strong alignment with the mission of our firm to “provide exceptional structural engineering services while simultaneously contributing to the greater good”.

We have been part of SE 2050 from its inception with our Founder and Principal, Michael Gryniuk, serving as its first Chair starting in the Winter of 2019 following several years of work on it within the SEI Sustainability Committee and in collaboration with the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF).

We believe, as structural engineers, that addressing the climate emergency should be central to our daily work through a renewed focus on minimizing structural material quantities, providing our clients with sufficient structural system options early on in the project that minimize whole carbon while maximizing functionality, educating our fellow team members on ways to measure and reduce embodied carbon, and being present during the procurement stage to ensure specified materials can be purchased. We believe that all structural engineers should be able to speak the language of embodied carbon in the way that works best for them.

We believe that all structural engineers should be able to speak the language of embodied carbon

Michael Gryniuk, Cora Structural Founder and Principal

As a first requirement to join the Program, Cora Structural wrote a commitment letter signed by Michael Gryniuk, which was submitted to SEI’s Managing Director, Laura Champion. Following the requirements of the Program, within six months Cora Structural will submit our first Embodied Carbon Action Plan (ECAP) which will outline our plan to educate, advocate, track and ultimate reduce embodied carbon on our projects through focused and upfront conversations with our clients and the project owners.

We feel strongly that proactive early conversations with clients and owners is the only viable way to ensure embodied carbon measurements and reduction solutions can be evaluated and implemented with little to no cost impact to the project.

Michael Gryniuk, Cora Structural Founder and Principal

Finally, the second major requirement of joining the Program is that we will submit project data, anonymized, to SE 2050’s centralized database for their tracking and for which they will ultimately use for establishing industry-wide benchmarks and trends of structural embodied carbon impacts.

We are eager to get to work!

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Industry Collaboration on Embodied Carbon

In his capacity as Chair of SE 2050, Cora Structural Founder and Principal, Michael Gryniuk, was very happy to take part in an initial meeting of industry leaders to discuss a potential coalition to accelerate and strategize how to rapidly reduce embodied carbon in the built environment. The group was composed of representatives from a set of NGOs and professional commitment groups who are engaged in gathering embodied carbon data from the built environment for professional carbon reduction commitment programs or certification systems, as well as other awareness and engagement activities.

The group explored working together to streamline embodied carbon data collection and reporting, align on key terminology, build awareness around solutions of the positive environmental attributes that building materials can achieve, and speak together with a harmonized voice to accelerate progress.

Following years of collaboration amongst various individual groups, built environment industry leaders came together for the first time at one table on March 14th, 2023 in Seattle, Washington, to discuss a potential coalition to accelerate and strategize how to rapidly reduce embodied carbon in the built environment.

The workshop was convened by Architecture 2030Building Transparency, Carbon Leadership Forum, International Living Future Institute, and the US Green Building Council. In attendance were members of the organizing groups along with representatives from:

Reducing embodied carbon is recognized as a key action area for the built environment industries — including design, real estate, and construction — to address climate change. 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 Federal Inflation Reduction Act. Collaboration among industry leaders is seen as necessary to enable positive outcomes to those actions.

The group explored working together to streamline embodied carbon data collection and reporting, align on key terminology, build awareness around solutions that building materials can achieve, and speak together with a harmonized voice to accelerate progress. Together, this collaboration will accelerate the transition of the built environment towards positive environmental outcomes through design practices and material choices.

As organizations currently or imminently gathering embodied carbon data from the built environment industry, creating tools and resources, and building awareness about this critical issue, we believe that we can move faster together. We will be meeting again in May to plan our collaboration.

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8th Grade Podcast Interview

We had a great time being interviewed by an 8th grade student from the Newton, MA Public School system for a podcast project (things sure have changed since we were in 8th grade!).  The conversation touched on several topics with a focus on the day-to-day activities of a structural engineer. We discussed the important relationship between the architect and the structural engineer and some of the key differences. We also got to review some of the really interesting things structural engineers get to do and are responsible for and how we design the ‘skeleton’ of the building.

We were very happy to also have the opportunity to talk about what structural engineers are doing to address climate change and how the SE 2050 Commitment (www.se2050.org) is an important commitment for firms to make. We were so very happy to hear just how knowledgeable the student was in science and the climate and pleasantly surprised at how many questions they had on the topic.

“We have made some progress that we are proud of but we need everyone, particularly young people, to really engage in this and push us to be better than we have been today.”

-Michael Gryniuk, Principal, Cora Structural

Being interviewed by an 8th grader reminded us of the obligation we have to continue to pursue the seemingly impossible task of addressing climate change and moving the structural engineering profession forward. With fantastic questions from an impressive 8th grader we sure do hope we hold up our end of the bargain!