A climate-conscious built environment requires answering the basic questions of where, what, and when to build or renovate first. But then what?
MKA targets the cross-roads of resiliency and lower carbon construction, with guidance and leadership from the early design stages through construction. We firmly believe this is the most effective space for structural engineers to make a positive impact on our planet. Doing the right thing is even easier when it coincides with long-term cost reduction.
As industry leaders, it is our responsibility to track, optimize, and innovate on our structural frames, striving to lower the embodied carbon (Global Warming Potential -GWP) of construction with every building we design or re-purpose.
MKA is pioneering research and engaging with low-carbon construction advocacy. But this is just the latest chapter in MKA’s history of material optimization and minimal use of precious resources to create our designs.
The math is simple: creating innovative designs that use less of our limited resources is better than maintaining the status quo. What better way to reduce the carbon footprint of a building than by removing unnecessary material? The above chart illustrates years of MKA’s steel high-rise designs (green dots) compared to the designs by others (blue dots). Less material means reduced construction cost, which is a win-win scenario for the environment and the client.
Designing buildings to withstand the test of time is the ultimate gauge of our work. MKA’s pioneering leadership in Performance-Based Seismic Design can produce a more resilient design at a reduced financial cost and/or material quantity. Efficiency and resilience go hand-in-hand when structural materials are more strategically placed and then eliminated where they are not as effective or necessary.
How a material is made and where it comes from can often have a greater carbon impact on a new building’s carbon footprint than the choice of material itself, be it wood, steel, concrete, or other. So how do you make more sustainable choices? It starts with using materials where they are best suited, ideally serving more than one purpose for each application, and optimizing load paths and material quantities throughout the design process. The next step is to ask for Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) in the specification of materials, and to use this information to make more informed purchasing decisions. These choices result in reduced project risk and lower-carbon buildings. Informed owner choices then can be made, and best-value, low-carbon suppliers can be rewarded.
We believe success for a lower-carbon built environment requires industry collaboration and a collective effort, not working in isolation. This is one of the reasons the MKA Foundation supports the creation of the open-source and industry-wide EC3 tool. The EC3 tool is driving market change by demystifying and improving the quality and timeliness of material embodied carbon data available, making material supplier carbon foot-print data transparent and comparable within material types. Hosted at the Carbon Leadership Forum, the EC3 tool encourages projects to set a “carbon budget” during design that can then be managed through material “quantity control” and procurement efforts. This harkens back to the DNA of MKA’s optimization efforts, always keeping in mind “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it."