The Structural Engineers 2050 Commitment Program is trying to identify best practices to reduce embodied carbon in building structures. SE 2050 is especially focused on ensuring consistency in the global-warming-potential background data of the projects submitted to the program’s database. The data will eventually be used to set industry benchmarks for calculating and comparing the carbon content of different structural systems.

“We know there are inconsistencies in the data we are collecting,” says Mike Gryniuk, a principal at LeMessurier and chair of the two-year-old SE 2050 program, which is part of the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The mission of SE 2050 is to help structural engineers understand, reduce and eventually eliminate embodied carbon in their projects, in the name of achieving zero-carbon structures by 2050. SE 2050 currently has 101 structural firm signatories. It has averaged four new members each month since its inception.

inconsistencies in project background data make it difficult to compare the global warming potentials from multiple environmental product declarations or other sources. The inconsistencies are mostly due to the several different software programs used to determine the global warming potential of a material or product.

“This is why it is important that the ecosystem of embodied carbon optimization continue to develop and that it prioritize rigor, transparency and quantitative assessment of uncertainty,” says Dirk Kestner, director of sustainable design for Walter P Moore.

Currently, SE 2050 is working on a beta database for the benchmarks, “to learn what is working or not,” says Gryniuk. It intends to complete it by November 2023. By November 2024, Gryniuk expects “a first pass” at establishing actual benchmarks. The goal is to create a specific global-warming-potential benchmark number for each type of structural system.