structural engineering

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
Structures Congress 2023 Wrap-Up 1024 768 CORA Structural

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 ( 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!

Industry Collaboration on Embodied Carbon 1024 769 CORA Structural

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.

Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC3) Workshop 727 367 CORA Structural

Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC3) Workshop

Cora Structural was a guest at a recent workshop on “Unlocking Cement Decarbonization with LC3” featuring Dr. Karen Scrivener and other top global researchers, industry experts, practitioners, and clients. The event was co-hosted by RMI and Climateworks, and included presentations and discussions on the role of Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC3) and calcined clays in decarbonizing the cement industry. The workshop took place at City Club of San Francisco on the week prior to the Spring ACI Convention.  Dr. Karen Scrivener of the LC3 project and Scott Shell of Climateworks wrote up a fantastic brief on LC3 and its potential for scaling up the decarbonization of the cement industry following the workshop. We think you’ll see tremendous value in the potential of LC3 in the overall movement of decarbonization. We highly recommend your read it:

The workshop was a great opportunity to connect with a range of cement industry stakeholders and provide a structural engineering perspective as both a practicing structural engineer as well as a steward of the national SE 2050 Commitment Program and its mission of achieving net-zero embodied carbon structures by 2050. One takeaway we had was on the importance of knowledge-sharing and trying to understand the perspectives of all parties. If we have any chance to meet the global CO2 targets we cannot do it in silos and this workshop completely corroborated that notion. Until we attended this event, we did not fully grasp the potential that LC3 could have on reducing the embodied carbon of concrete particularly as the availability of high quality supplemental cementitious materials (SCM) like slag and fly ash for clinker replacement level off. Being part of the conversations on the complexities of the cement and SCM supply chain, both domestically and internationally, helped us understand a bit better how things can be translated locally to current projects and when speaking with clients. As with any movement its imperative to understand the right questions to ask and we certainly heard a few we’ll be asking in our daily practice.

It was particularly wonderful to hear Dr. Karen Scrivener speak about LC3 – her expertise and drive to move the cement industry forward was inspiring. From her presentation, and others, we became educated on the scalability of LC3 by the simple fact that availability of adequate clays to create LC3 is significant globally and that calcining them can be done at a much lower rate of CO2 emissions. Its being produced in the United States, TODAY, and the potential for cement producers to produce and supply with modest upgrades to existing technology exists now.

The workshop reminded us of a great article that summarizes solutions to decarbonizing the cement industry from a global perspective. We feel this is one of the ‘go-to’ articles providing the full picture tied to the global decarbonization movement. See below.

So what to do with this information?

As structural engineers we must not only educate ourselves but educate our clients to put them in the best position to achieve their goals. The present day structural engineer must engage more on this topic, understand where opportunities exist on projects and find ways to implement all while satisfying present day project constraints. It can be done. The first step is to educate yourself and then ask your fellow colleagues some basic questions to get started:

  • To the General Contractor / Construction Manager
    • “What do you know about this low-carbon concrete movement?”
  • To the Concrete sub-contractor (on your current project if possible)
    • “Have you ever installed concrete with a portland cement replacement rate higher than 30%?”
  • To the Concrete ready-mix supplier (on your current project if possible)
    • “Have you been having any issues getting fly ash or slag?”
    • “Do you have any test data on concrete’s with portland cement replacement rates higher than 40%?”
  • To the Structural Engineer
    • “Are you comfortable specifying concrete with portland cement replacement rates higher than 30%?”

Just by asking those basic questions you’ll open up a great opportunity to learn more than you ever thought you would!

8th Grade Podcast Interview 1024 576 CORA Structural

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 ( 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!

HSS Fabrication Plant Visit 1024 768 CORA Structural
HSS Fabrication

HSS Fabrication Plant Visit

Cora Structural had the opportunity to visit the massive Atlas Tube facility in Blytheville, AR to see first hand how Hollow Structural Sections (officially HSS but you probably know them as ‘tubes’) are made.  Starting with the initial unbuckling of the huge steel coils, continuing on to the splicing of plate ends and the slowly folding to round sections and eventual rectangular sections, to the continuous seam welds, and finally to the finish cutting and stacking, it was an incredible process to witness!  And each step of the way is covered by critically important quality control measures and a highly trained staff. 

DID YOU KNOW? All square and rectangular sections start as round sections, which are then methodically shaped into sections with flat edges by way of a series of rollers while simultaneously being doused with water to keep things cool and moving smoothly.

In our humble opinion, being in facilities producing the structural elements we design and specify daily provides an invaluable perspective that ultimately makes us better structural engineers.  We are so thankful to Atlas Tube for the opportunity and for taking the time to show us around and answer all of our (many, many) questions.

Tour of Nucor-Yamato Steel Mill 1024 768 CORA Structural

Tour of Nucor-Yamato Steel Mill

Cora Structural was a special guest of the American Institute of Steel Construction’s (AISC) Sustainability Committee to participate in a behind the scenes tour of the Nucor-Yamato steel mill in Blytheville, AR. The mill produces millions of tons of rolled steel sections each year.

At the tour were representatives from the steel industry across the country including fabricators, service distribution centers, and suppliers as well as architects, engineers, contractors, and owners. The day was broken into two parts: 1. walking the steel mill and observing the process of creating steel sections starting with the initial loading of scrap steel to the electric arc furnace and continuing through to the finish rolling of wide flange sections and 2. an in depth discussion on the future of sustainable steel production which followed presentations by Nucor-Yamato, AISC, and other steel professionals.

The mill facility and its multiple buildings, roads and yards couldn’t have been any more impressive. It was incredible to watch with one’s own eyes the well-choreographed process of taking large amounts of scrap steel and converting it to new molten steel and casting large ‘blanks’ for eventual rolling to a finished product. On any given day there are specific sets of wide flange sections produced by first re-heating the blanks and then running through rollers to get the specified sizes. Standing in the facility it was hard not to ‘nerd out’ a bit and feel the awesome capacity of steel.

It’s one thing to talk about the benefits of an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) over that of a Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) for steel production but its a whole other thing to stand next to one and hear the sound of (and feel the vibration of) the electric current arcing across electrodes and melting recycled scrap steel.

Michael Gyniuk, Principal, Cora Structural

At each stage of the production process were stations of employees of the mill working to ensure all systems were functioning appropriately and the highest levels of quality control. The employees were very generous with their time to explain the process and answer all of our questions.

We appreciated the candid discussion about how to achieve more sustainable steel. We reviewed the complexities of the global supply chain, the amount of scrap steel available, and how much the mill can produce in a given year (it’s a lot!). The representatives at the mill were very willing to answer all of our questions and even had some for us.

In our humble opinion, being in facilities producing the structural elements we design and specify daily provides an invaluable perspective that ultimately makes us better structural engineers.  We are so thankful to Nucor-Yamato Steel, AISC, and others for the opportunity and for taking the time to show us around and answer all of our (many, many) questions.

We learned SO much and looking forward to bringing our knowledge to future projects.

Do you know the impact of your project’s steel?

On a recent project we reviewed the source of steel for a large frame located in Boston, MA. On that project, for a large educational institution, the steel mill certificates were collected and the mill source of each member was determined. For that project and tonnage, about 800 tons, 65% of the steel was domestically sourced whereas the other 35% was from overseas mills. Using the facility-specific Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) we found that the embodied carbon impact of the domestic steel was significantly less than that of the overseas steel per ton, even to the point where the impact of the overseas steel was nearly the same as the domestic steel even at half the tonnage. There are several reasons for this and we’d be happy to discuss them with you. Have you checked your steel?

Here are some useful links to industry average EPDs and specification guidance. Note that the link to industry average EPDs also has links to facility-specific EPDs for domestic steel.

Steel Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) from AISC – Industry Average EPDs

Specification Guidance from SE 2050 – Steel Spec Guidance

Reach out if you have questions or want to learn more!