The Washington, D.C., practice of global design firm Perkins&Will has pledged to eliminate embodied carbon in every commercial interiors space it designs by 2030.
“We’re setting this ambitious benchmark as a necessary response to the global climate crisis,” says Perkins&Will architect and sustainability expert Jon Penndorf. “We believe the District of Columbia and surrounding communities can lead the way for the rest of the country.”
Embodied carbon is an aggregate of all emissions released during ingredient extraction, product manufacturing, transportation, and end-of-life reuse or non-use. Statistics suggest embodied carbon is responsible for 11% of all global greenhouse gas emissions annually, the firm says. In the building sector, it accounts for more than a quarter of emissions.
“It’s been ingrained in architects and designers to think of heating and cooling as the biggest culprit, some of the worst climate change offenders—our building materials—are hidden in plain sight,” says Perkins&Will architect Rod Letonja. The problem is compounded by interior renovations and new tenant fit-outs. Old interior building materials frequently get discarded rather than reused, and with large leases turning over every 10 years on average, the emissions impact increases over time.