design thinkers

SLAM + SE 2050 Challenge

Have you heard of AIA 2030? SE 2050 is the structural engineering equivalent, which focuses solely on the elimination of embodied carbon in structural building materials. SE 2050 is a commitment program established in response to growing climate concerns. The goal is to educate participating structural engineers to ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050. By joining this program, SLAM is committing to a greener and more sustainable future.

Specifying the right material for a project can make a greater environmental impact than simply recycling (although we should do this as well). To gain the biggest environmental bang for our buck, understanding which environmentally friendly materials to specify on our projects is a great start, because 11% of global CO2 emissions are produced by building materials.

The good news is that SLAM’s Structural Studio has already updated our structural specifications to reduce the carbon emissions of the materials we specify. We are also in the process of incorporating an embodied carbon measurement tool to predict the amount that will be produced for each project based on the material type used and its total volume. Measuring a project’s embodied carbon helps us understand how to reduce it. This information is then shared with the SE 2050 program to be included in a central database to help understand national trends.

These sustainable changes made by the SLAM Structural Studio are already being implemented on multiple projects, including Torrington Public Schools new Middle and High Schools and Ox Ridge Elementary School. Ox Ridge Elementary School is utilizing ground glass pozzolan in the concrete foundations to help reduce embodied carbon within the concrete. Ground glass pozzolan is made of recycled glass collected from the town of Darien, which is ground into a fine powder and supplemented for some of the cement in the concrete mix. Another SLAM structural project is utilizing CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) in lieu of typical slab-on-metal deck floors to reduce the embodied carbon of the structure.

SLAM’s Structural Studio and GREEN Team continuously work to create more sustainable projects, and by joining the SE 2050 Challenge we are making a commitment to creating a path to substantially reducing embodied carbon in our structural systems.

As a part of the NCSEA Sustainability Committee, I am continuously updated on the latest sustainable information from fellow structural engineers across the country. The SLAM Structural Studio has helped me implement many sustainable changes that are now in place. Kudos for their hard work and continued support of sustainable efforts for the SE 2050 Challenge.