LPA Signs SE 2050 Commitment to Eliminate Embodied Carbon from Structures

The Structural Engineering (SE) 2050 Commitment calls on the architecture, engineering and construction industry to reduce and eliminate embodied carbon in structural systems by 2050.

LPA Design Studios has joined the SE 2050 Commitment, an initiative to reduce and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in structural systems by 2050.

Structural systems account for about half of the embodied carbon in a typical building project, with steel and concrete the greatest contributors. Like the AIA 2030 Commitment, SE 2050 gradually increases the targeted level of embodied carbon reduction until it is completely replaced by renewable sources. An interim goal is to halve embodied carbon in structures by 2030.

“The SE 2050 Commitment is the next step in LPA’s commitment to sustainable design,” said LPA CEO Wendy Rogers. “We will attack SE 2050 with the same singleness of purpose that has inspired our industry-leading achievement in the 2030 Commitment.”

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West Hollywood Park Aquatics and Recreation Center.

LPA is an integrated design firm with architects, engineers, interior designers and landscape architects working under the same roof. The firm has developed a national reputation for designing high-performance buildings that cut energy use, so-called operational carbon. LPA was an early supporter of the AIA 2030 Commitment, a pledge to eliminate operational carbon from its design portfolio by 2030. Since then, LPA has led the industry in progress toward net zero energy use and is one of the few large firms to meet the AIA 2030 Commitment energy reduction targets. Last year LPA reduced predicted fossil fuel use in its projects by 75.8% from baseline.

As part of its participation in the SE2050 Commitment, LPA will produce an Embodied Carbon Act Plan and submit annual project data to the SE 2050 database, in addition to working to educate people internally and externally on the importance of embodied carbon reduction strategies. In addition, LPA will establish its own internal database of embodied carbon results, which firm leaders say will go beyond the program’s target of five tracked projects per year. LPA plans to measure structural embodied carbon on as many projects as possible with the goal of assessing every new project, starting in 2023.

The SE 2050 Commitment is the next step in LPA’s commitment to sustainable design. We will attack SE 2050 with the same singleness of purpose that has inspired our industry-leading achievement in the 2030 Commitment.

“The SE 2050 Commitment continues our commitment to participate in an industry-wide movement toward the decarbonization of the built environment, allowing us to learn from others, measure progress, and pioneer new ways of working,” said LPA Chief Design Officer Keith Hempel.

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Main Street Middle School.

The Structural Engineering Institute provides participating firms with support, education and tools to help achieve the SE2050 Commitment goals. In addition, the program will build an open-source database that design experts see as necessary to setting benchmarks and targets for embodied carbon reduction.

As an integrated firm, LPA is well positioned to make meaningful progress in eliminating embodied carbon from its structural systems. Design and research teams work across disciplines to set performance goals together at the beginning of projects and include those goals in every design decision.

“Our structural engineers are at the table from the beginning of every project so that every opportunity for carbon reduction is maximized,” said LPA Director of Structural Engineering Daniel Wang. “It’s going to take an integrated process to achieve the kind of progress SE 2050 demands.”

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Efficient application and purposeful sourcing of structural steel are important embodied carbon reduction strategies.

LPA already employs embodied carbon-cutting design strategies in its structural designs, including the use of alternative concrete mixtures that reduce the use of carbon-intensive cement. The firm is also working with mass timber, which sequesters carbon rather than producing it.

“Each of these strategies and new ones not yet invented will be required to fully eliminate embodied carbon from structures,” Wang says. “The SE 2050 Commitment provides the industry with a framework and support to drive change.”

About LPA Design Studios

LPA is a multi-discipline firm focused on collaboration, inclusion and an integrated design process that connects building performance and design excellence. Founded in 1965, the firm’s mission is to deliver timeless, sustainable designs that benefit the environment, generate lasting value, enrich the human experience, and ensure a better future. With six studios in California and Texas, LPA’s team includes more than 400 in-house architects, master planners, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects and research analysts, working across a wide array of sectors. In 2021, LPA was honored as AIA California’s Firm of the Year, the organization’s highest annual honor for an architectural firm. For more information, visit lpadesignstudios.com.