Embodied carbon has emerged as a critical consideration as the construction industry continues its mission of increasing sustainability. However, a new white paper from the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association – Vinyl Roofing Division argues that embodied carbon reveals only part of a building material’s total carbon footprint. Titled “Accurately Measuring the Sustainability of Building Products,” the white paper may be downloaded here. 

Fully understanding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with a particular building material means taking into account CO2 generated during manufacture, transport, and use, as well as overall life cycle – this is called cradle-to-grave lifecycle. 

Some readers might be surprised to hear that the more commonly used method is cradle-to-gate, which stops once building construction is completed and only gives a partial picture of a project’s true carbon footprint. 

Embodied carbon accounts for the CO2 emissions during only the cradle-to-gate portion of the material’s lifecycle. However, there is also operational carbon, which measures a material’s effect on reducing CO2 emissions during the operation of the building, which coincides with the use stage of a full cradle-to-grave lifecycle assessment.

Reducing the carbon footprint of construction should focus on building products that are long-lasting and resilient, can reduce CO2 emitted during the operation of the building, and are made or partially made of recycled content. A case in point is roofing. By understanding all the contributions to the total carbon footprint of various roofing material choices, construction specifiers are equipped with valuable knowledge to make informed decisions that align with carbon reduction goals while ensuring optimal roofing performance and longevity.

The Vinyl Roofing Division’s white paper on this topic helps equip construction specifiers to understand the nuances in the total carbon impact of various roofing material choices.

For more information on PVC roofing, visit https://vinylroofs.org/.