IMPACT BY DESIGN 2020
GENSLER RESEARCH INSTITUTE
STRATEGIES FOR MATERIALS
Using low-carbon materials and products significantly reduces a building’s overall embodied carbon.

Continuing the usable life of a building.

Sourcing materials and products regionally to mitigate transportation-related impact.

Improving the building process to increase efficiency and minimize waste.

Strategizing ways to reduce waste generated — whether from construction or during normal building operations.

Reusing materials, products, or their components.

In the U.S., 11% of all energy consumed stems from making and shipping building materials. Standard rates for embodied energy (the energy required to extract, process, and manufacture a material or product) do not even include the energy consumed while transporting materials. Since nearly 75% of all raw materials are used for buildings, we must make conscious decisions about how we source, construct, and finish our structures.

Materials vary in their impact. Cement used to make concrete accounts for nearly 10% of all emissions worldwide. It has been said that if the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world. Wood, however, has relatively low embodied energy — as much as five times less than steel. Because trees absorb CO2 while alive, wood also offers the additional benefit of storing carbon in perpetuity, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere.

Using locally sourced and recycled materials to create a multifunctional space for community residents.
The Recycling and Community Center of Chira uses a modular building structure that supports easy fabrication and construction using local materials such as recycled glass for the windows and recycled Tetra Pak cartons for the roof.
Since nearly 75% of all raw materials are used for buildings, we must make conscious decisions about how we source, construct, and finish our structures.

The lifespans of materials often depend on how they are used in an environment. The longer that materials are used in buildings, the more time they have to amortize. Furniture and interior finishes tend to be replaced every few years, while structural elements can last as long as the building itself. High-churn projects, such as retail stores, can potentially be far more wasteful with materials, so choosing products that can be removed and reused easily is key. Additionally, obtaining materials from local or regional sources can significantly reduce construction-related emissions.

IMPACT BY DESIGN 2020
GENSLER RESEARCH INSTITUTE

In Impact by Design 2020 we introduce Strategies for Climate Resilience: a collection of six major areas that have the greatest potential for positive climate impact in the coming years.