Photo 155564093 © One Photo |

More Experts Sound Off on the EC3

Feb. 28, 2024
As a follow-up to our Jan/Feb feature, here are two professionals offering up their own how-tos on using the EC3 calculator to understand your project’s footprint and climate impact.

We wanted to do a FAQ on the EC3 Calculator, a free and easy to use workflow tool that allows design teams to make material decisions while keeping track of the carbon footprint of the product they select. It also allows design teams to go in after the build and accurately measure their footprint, but also lets them measure as they go along, making them completely engaged with their project’s footprint at multiple stages of a project. 

In other words: plug in your data and instantly know what kind of climate impact your material decisions are having.

EC3 and its ease of use are driving the demand for products that offer a low carbon solution and more Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). We talk so much today about supply chain data and it’s important to know why, as we ship and install our products all over the globe, exposing users, installers and factory workers to whatever goes into our products. It’s more important than ever to know what’s in them. 

But the design industry is figuring it out and the proof is in these two professionals I chatted with below. I sat down with Perkins&Will D.C.’s Senior Technical Coordinator and Senior Associate Brittany McNairy, and Parallel Sustainability’s VP of Operations Rebecca Backer to see how each views the tool from their own unique vantage points in the world of sustainable design.

Brittany McNairy

JS: When should you use the EC3 Calculator?

BN: The EC3 Calculator can be used as early as conceptual and schematic design phases through post-construction. It’s a useful tool in the early design phases because Autodesk Revit models can be imported into the calculator, which allows architects and designers to evaluate carbon associated with different design options and materials. Teams can also use EC3 to assess products from multiple manufacturers and make material selections to optimize carbon reduction. Using EC3 during post-construction gives teams the opportunity to verify the project’s embodied carbon reduction using the materials procured for construction.

The Perkins&Will D.C. team recently completed an interior renovation for Greenpeace USA in Washington, D.C. and the EC3 calculator was an important part of our process. We identified several material reuse strategies early in schematic design and used Tally to demonstrate the embodied carbon reduction we could achieve if those strategies were implemented. The preliminary Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provided our team with metrics to support material reuse, and emphasized the impact the strategies could have on reducing the project’s embodied carbon. We imported our Revit model into EC3 as the design progressed and our team evaluated material selections. During construction, we used EC3 to verify the project’s embodied carbon reduction with material takeoffs provided by our general contractor and the final materials installed in the constructed space.

Brittany gives us some great feedback from a designer’s perspective, but I still had questions. I know our industry is trying hard to find alignment on the language we use for sustainability work, thanks to the mindful MATERIALS team. I was interested in getting the opinion of someone who has used this tool from an LCA Practitioner perspective—enter Rebecca, an LCA expert who brings a different experience to the conversation. 

Image courtesy of ZGF Architects

3 Designers Talk 3 Ways to Utilize EC3

Jan. 29, 2024
ZGF Architects shows how they've embedded the tool’s use into their practice in order to develop interiors that make a profound impact on a project's total embodied carbon.

Rebecca Backer
Parallel Sustainability

JS: How can our industry use this tool to help designers make better decisions around material transparency?

RB: In my opinion, EC3 is a fantastic mechanism for feedback. It serves two very important functions:
First, it helps designers who are interested in understanding the embodied carbon of their designs and/or who have specific carbon targets for their buildings to achieve these goals. EC3 allows designers to quickly and easily look for products that have quantified not just their global warming potentials, but also other critical environmental impacts and integrate them easily into their projects. It also allows designers, where a particular product category is saturated in apples-to-apples EPDs, to compare the global warming potentials of the same or similar products so that they're not just making decisions based on cost, aesthetics or specification but also accounting for their environmental impacts.

Secondly, it gives designers an opportunity to send a signal to manufacturers that their EPDs are important. All too often we see manufacturers hesitate with taking the plunge on completing an LCA/ EPD for their products (as well as with any other product sustainability certification or report). EC3 has an opportunity to serve as that very important starter loop so that manufacturers continue pursuing and expanding product sustainability work.

JS: In your experience, what do you like about using the EC3? What is the biggest challenge for users?

RB: What I like about it is the ease with which a designer can integrate multiple, different building products into their design. I also really like how the tool allows end users to graphically compare the embodied carbon of multiple products from different perspectives (by manufacturer, by product type, etc.). One of the biggest challenges though would be for the end user, to ensure they are comparing apples-to-apples. There's a lot of uncertainty that is built into an LCA/EPD and different practitioners can model things in different ways (especially if they are using different Product Category Rules or PCRs). This makes it important to always take the comparisons with a grain of salt, and dig into the actual EPDs if there is an interest in understanding why two products have different Global Warming Potential (GWPs) on a detailed level. With that said, the tool still does a fantastic job of providing end users with a database of products covered by an LCA and helping them estimate the embodied carbon of the buildings.  

The EC3 Calculator gives you the opportunity to truly understand the impact of your product and spaces. So get out there and start using it, today!

About the Author

Jon Strassner

With 28 years of industry experience, Jon Strassner is now an independent climate consultant, passionate about understanding the role we all play in Net Positive Impact, where we don’t just take less from the environment, but restore, regenerate and replace what has been damaged or destroyed. He is a founding member of Next Wave Plastics, an Impact Icon 2022 award winner, co-founder and co-creator of the Break Some Dishes podcast and the director of outreach for mindful MATERIALS.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of I+S Design, create an account today!