“Step one (of 3) on reducing embodied carbon emissions is to start thinking about if we have to build a building at all. So if we just stopped building right now, there's plenty of empty space for us to put all that square footage into that we say we need. And beyond that, we have more than we need."
The Nexus podcast (Apple | Spotify | YouTube | Other apps) is our chance to explore and learn with the brightest in our industry—together. The project is directly funded by listeners like you who have joined the Nexus Pro membership community.
You can join Nexus Pro to get a weekly-ish deep dive, access to the Nexus Vendor Landscape, and invites to exclusive events with a community of smart buildings nerds.
Episode 78 is a conversation with Stacy Smedley, Sustainability Director at Skanska USA and Executive Director of Building Transparency, a fascinating nonprofit organization founded by a bunch of huge enterprises that are out to decarbonize the construction process.
We talked about that in detail, including what embodied carbon is, how to reduce it to zero, whether Stacy believes we can get to zero, and finally, where technology fits.
Specifically, we dove into the EC3 tool that's managed by Building Transparency - it's free, I think it's the key to really transforming construction, and there's a key value proposition for operating buildings with zero carbon that all of you should understand.
Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus podcast with Stacy Smedley.
Mentions and Links
- Skanska (0:35)
- Building Transparency (0:38)
- Magnolia Steel Band (2.57)
- Washington Business for Climate Action (4:11)
- Climate Everything (7:41)
- EC3 (25:53)
- CLF Embodied Carbon Benchmark Study (33:17)
- (VIDEO) The Ultimate Reunion: When Dad Is a Sperm Donor (41:57)
- Oprah: Anonymous Fathers (41:57)
You can find Stacy on LinkedIn.
- Quick overview of Stacy's background - lots of activities! (2:02)
- A primer on emissions from construction - What is embodied carbon? (8:31)
- LEED - why hasn't it scaled? (19:46)
- What is the EC3 tool and how is it transforming construction? (25:53)
- Future of EC3 - Where's this headed and the connection to digital twins (36:43)
Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!
James Dice: hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.
James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Stacy Smedley sustainability director at Skanska USA and executive director of building transparency. A fascinating nonprofit organization founded by a bunch of huge enterprises that are out to decarbonize the construction process. We talked about that specifically in detail, including what embodied carbon is, how to reduce it to zero. Whether Stacy believes that we can actually get to zero. And finally, of course, where smart building technology [00:01:00] fits in the play. Specifically as well, we dove into the ISI. tool that's managed by building transparency. It's free. I think it's the key to really transform and construction. And there's a key value proposition for operating buildings with zero carpet. And that I think all of you should understand. So without further ado, please enjoy the nexus podcast with Stacy Smedley. Hello, Stacy. Welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself?
Stacy Smedley: Sure thanks for having me. My name Stacy Smedley I'm currently I wear two hats figuratively and literally but I'm the executive director of building transparency, which is a Washington state based 5 0 1 C3 nonprofit with the mission of providing free, open access tools and data that reduce embodied carbon.
I'm also a director of sustainability for Skanska USA. Where I support projects in the Washington region, but also I'm a subject matter expert on carpet and living buildings now.
James Dice: Cool. And your hat for those, of you that are listening on audio. And can't see Stacy right now, her hat [00:02:00] says, ask me about embodied carbon.
So we're going to do that today. But first I want to talk about kind of how you got here. And I. Creeped on you on LinkedIn as I do. So where I wanted to start with, with the Magnolia steel band. So I watched a couple, can you tell me about how that came to be?
Stacy Smedley: Sure. Yeah. I mean, I've outside of, of architecture and buildings and sustainability music is my other passion.
So. Doing music since I was a little girl, I started playing guitar when I was 16. Thanks to Juul. That's dating me, but Juul Juul's record came out and I wanted to be like Juul. So I started writing music and playing guitar, put it down for a long time when I was kind of building my career and focusing on that.
And then about six years ago, started an open mic. And Magnolia where I live in Seattle at a restaurant called serendipity met my band mates. We all play guitar, so there's 18 steel strings. So we named ourselves steel Magnolia cause we all live here locally. And we largely do [00:03:00] originals that I've written.
And some of those are keenly focused on what I do, which is a environmental work. So there's a few songs out there explicitly about that. And our 12 song album is going to drop before Christmas on Spotify and iTunes. So there'll be so happy that I mentioned that on a podcast, but I'll tell my band mates.
I got that in there.
James Dice: Yeah. I was watching one of your videos and I could tell. You know, sometimes you, you don't necessarily understand the lyrics, but you kind of feel what the song is about. And I, I very much felt the one that I don't remember which one it was, but very much felt that it was about like the sustainability effort
Stacy Smedley: on Swan song and grave diggers.
They take different approaches or lyrical approaches to it. But yeah, probably one of those.
James Dice: All right. Well, we'll link to those in the show notes, everyone check them out. All right. And so the rest of my creeping identified that there are many other things that you have active roles in right now. So you mentioned Skanska, you mentioned [00:04:00] building transparency.
I also saw that there's Washington business for climate action. And then there's a us state department, mint advisory group. Can you talk about what those things.
Stacy Smedley: Sure. Yeah. The Washington businesses for climate action really started right after the Paris agreement as a way to catalyze businesses in Washington that had a focus on sustainability or had their own climate targets to really sign a declaration that Washington businesses were all in.
They're going to focus on that. And then we worked on convening them into a kind of a ad hoc policy group that would go in and speak to policy that was being proposed in Washington. And then now really supports each other with your kind of peer to peer presentations and ways to really think about how business can support climate policy and climate targets.
Locally. And then the advisory groups, I'm really excited about that. I was asked to join that, and that's an industry advisory group for the department of state. I'm really advising them on how to approach all of their building activities globally and what they should be focused on. And I was brought in through my fitness, sustainability lens [00:05:00] of how can the state department really push good design and sustainable building out to all the markets they touch based on where they build things like embassies.
And that's just, just starting. So I've had my first couple of meetings, but it's pretty exciting too.
James Dice: That's fascinating that aligns with our webinars that we have, well, it's this week, but by the time this comes out, it will, are, have a happened. But it's basically about how buildings get built locally.
So we can talk about smart buildings on a national or global standpoint, all we want, but it's really the local supply chain that makes it happen. That's fascinating that they're thinking about it in that way.
Stacy Smedley: Yeah.
James Dice: All right. And there's also just like the overall thought leadership that you provide.
So the, your LinkedIn feed, which we'll also link to is amazing. When did you start doing that? Uh, Daily posts.
Stacy Smedley: That was it was 2020. So this is my second year. I started in 2020 my climate focused new year's resolution on January 1st, 2020 was to do a climate related to post on LinkedIn every day.
Just as a way to raise awareness, you know, that was at a time when [00:06:00] it wasn't something that at least our federal policy or a local kind of local us policy was focusing on. And they wanted to figure out a way where I could be trying to spread education and messaging and like the urgency. I felt around all of that at a time when I thought that was lacking.
So that was just a daily post on climate. And It was largely trying to make the case that we needed to do. And really bring a lot of things around that to the table. And then in 2021 I shifted, I said, okay, well that was a year of climate fo focus posts in the back. And I noticed that a lot of them were not positive.
They were like, negative. This is what's happening that we need to fix. And I thought, okay, what can we do this year? So I started positive post. And that's really not just focused on climate, but anything positive that I could think of that would be beneficial or that was impacting me positively that I'd want to share.
So that was this year. I'm not sure what next year will bring, but we're, we're on day 320 something I think, of, of this year. So I better start thinking about next year.
James Dice: Yeah, for sure. Well, thank you for those. I've found many of them and inspiring but also [00:07:00] just informative the recent ones around the gifts or gifts whether people want prefer there have been awesome.
When did you start.
Stacy Smedley: Again, I just, I, my husband's on the weekend. Can you just please like watch some, some stupid TV show? I'm like, no, I'm going to make some climate gifts today. That's started cause I was starting to make these kinds of cartoon graphics. There's one out there on embodied carbon.
That's been shared quite a lot that I made while at Skanska and I thought, okay, well, if I'm making these to help me explain some of these things to either my friends or family or colleagues. Clients, I might as well share them with everyone so that, you know, they're more, they're broadly useful. Hopefully so I created a website called climate gifts.com.
I just changed the name to climate, everything.com because I'm adding other stuff in there now, because I can't help myself. But if you if you go to climate guests.com or climate, everything.com, you'll get to them. Kind of the automated ones, but also just the, the static images of all of the graphics.
And now there's things on a buddy carbon and scope one, two, and three emissions and food. And [00:08:00] what are the impacts of food? Are they actually helping me learn about stuff now, too? Cause I'll tackle, I'll tackle a subject and go learn about it and then create the infographic or the gifts. So it's been helpful for me to now in the long run.
James Dice: I'm helping a client develop a sustainability product. And they were so focused on operating emissions that I said, well, you know, you should really should zoom out. And I sent them one of your, one of your links to kind of show the whole life cycle, which is a great jumping off point. Let's let's talk about that.
Can you talk about just like overall, what is embodied carbon? And this is me finally asking about.
Stacy Smedley: Sure. Yeah, it's awesome. Because now that I wear this hat to places like breweries, I'm actually explaining this exact same. So you're going to hear what I'm now saying to like the guy that's pouring my beer, which has been really fun and dirty for me.
So, um, so embodied carbon is really talking about all the carbon equivalent emissions that it takes to make something. So when it comes to building materials, it's. [00:09:00] Emissions of how you extract raw materials from the earth, things like stone or oars or whatever that might be with equipment that burned fuel, how you transport those raw ingredients to a manufacturing facility on trucks or barges or whatnot using.
How you then manufacture them into a product. So how you take raw ingredients at a manufacturing facility and through either the chemical reactions that are happening or this, the stacks that are going up or the energy you're consuming how you emit carbon during that process, that's really the cradle to gate.
Emissions, if you want to think of a term around that, but then embodied carbon also thinks about the whole life cycle of that product or material that you made. So how did you transport it to a construction site? If it's a building material, how did you put it into place using equipment that burn fuel?
How many times did you replace that material as you used to building or you you know, use that road that you're driving on. And then at the end of that building's life or infrastructure projects, life, how do you. Take all those building materials apart, and then hopefully take them back to a manufacturing facility and [00:10:00] reuse them into a new material, thus reducing the new stuff you're using.
And so that circular process continues, but there are emissions all along that that value chain of a product or a material, and they can all be calculated and put together into a number. And then you can also choose where you want to focus along that value chain, whether you want to look at the manufacturing emissions first, or think about everything all along.
But there's a lot there and it's not just building materials. You can think about it in terms of we can have a funny story about this later, but diapers, right? Like how do you, what do you use to make a diaper? How many diapers are you using for your you know, your child's every 24 hours and then, you know, what are you doing to those diapers when you're done with them?
That would be the embodied carbon of a diaper.
James Dice: Got it. Got it. And then one of the things that when I dug into body carbon that I don't understand is that you're, you're say you're making a steel I-beam for instance, you're emitting when you make that steel I-beam. But when you take the building down, [00:11:00] where are the emissions then at the end of that is that, does that make sense?
That question make sense.
Stacy Smedley: And it's a little bit different for us. Building material. If we focus on buildings in terms of where the image, how the emissions spread across that whole life cycle thinking right. First for things like steel and concrete, most of the emissions are in that making phase. So if you did a pie chart, you know, 80, 90 plus percent of the emissions are in that making of the, of the steel beam stage the emissions associated with that steel beam at end of life.
The equipment that was used to deconstruct it. So how much fuel did you burn to take that building apart and get that steel into a pile? Where did you transport that steel to? And then what happened to it then? And for steel, that's basically it, right? The recycled content is going to be accounted for in that new product that you make the second time in terms of a reduction of the raw stuff.
So things like steel and concrete largely. Focusing on that cradle to gate manufacturing, emission stage is really what makes the most impact because that's where the big component of the [00:12:00] emissions are.
James Dice: Okay. And then when we have a building that goes from, you know, design drawings to being decommissioned at the very end, where are the percentages of emissions?
Like where's the most, mostly.
Stacy Smedley: The most again, is in that cradle to gate manufacturing stage. So if I was breaking it down. Okay. So there's, and again, my, my infographic actually does this really well. So if we, we send the link for that, that's good. So that cradle is a great sticky cradle to gate stage.
For most major materials is again, I would say. 80%. If you want to take a rough number on average of all emissions, the transportation installation emissions are pretty tiny. They could be three to 5% of those emissions. For some materials that you replacing a lot like carpet or ceiling tiles that use face could actually start to add up because you're taking that amount of carpet that you put in and, and replacing it every five to 10 years.
So you're multiplying that, that emissions factor times, maybe five for a 50 year. Okay, so that use faced [00:13:00] can grow for some materials, for things like steel and concrete. It's zero, essentially because you're not taking the concrete away and putting a new concrete and then end of life again. And it's going to be in that kind of, you know, 5% ish range for most projects or products.
So again, that cradle to gate component, if you're trying to take a place where you can have actual impact right away and have the most impact that is a good place to focus. It's also the emissions. If you think about it, that will let you have admitted them. Cause you've made the product and now you're putting into place.
You can't go back and, and impact them. They've been admitted at time of production they're in the atmosphere. So if you don't do something about them, when you're thinking about what you're building out of and how you're procuring the product, that you've kind of lost the opportunity to reduce.
You can think about materials that last longer for the use phase. And then when you get to that end of life in 50 years, that's really when you're going to be tackling those end of life emissions of that particular product.
James Dice: Okay. This is reminded me of those, one of these books over my shoulder, confessions of a radical industrialist which I highly recommend it's about [00:14:00] carpet.
The guys, you know, started a company based on commercial. Building carpet. And he went on this like total awakening. I don't know if you had to read it before, but like a total awakening around like how dirty his company was that.
Stacy Smedley: Yes. And they're one of our key partners of the work that we're doing with building transparency and you C3.
James Dice: Yeah. So he's long passed away now, but yeah. Interface is like totally transformed the way that they do things. They
Stacy Smedley: they have a lot, they have a carbon sequestering carpet on the market right now. Cool. Yep. Actually stores carbon and it's tile.
James Dice: That's really cool. We should talk about that when we get to the C3 tool in just a minute for now I just want to understand, like, okay, you just named out all these different stages of the construction process.
Well, we, as a society are not going to stop building buildings. Right. I don't think unless that's been news and the last today during Monday morning news I [00:15:00] haven't seen that news, so I don't think you're going to stop building buildings worldwide. And so what's the pathway and yet we have to decarbonize as a society.
So what's the pathway to. Decarbonizing the construction process. And that might be a really huge question for us, a short conversation.
Stacy Smedley: Well, I think we can, I can try my best to be succinct about it. Cause I obviously think about this quite a bit. So we do need to start with thinking about if we have to build a building at all, and that can be really hard.
Especially, you know, for, for general contractors or owners that are in the business of building things. That's a hard thing to kind of sit with, but I have some stats that I was able to get from a large scale developer that has access to these cool tools. And I know for a fact that we have enough empty building stock commercial building stock right now in the U S to basically house all the new projected buildings that we were saying, we're going to.
Over the next two to five years. So if we just stopped building right now, there's plenty of empty space for us to put all that square footage into [00:16:00] that we say we need. And beyond that, we have more than more than we need. So there's opportunity and all these empty commercial buildings where you could start to retrofit them into schools or, or housing or whatever else we would need.
And a big percentage of those billing starts at eight sitting empty or LEED certified buildings. So if we don't start to actually think about. We built all this stuff already and we built some of it quite well. And now we're going to go say, oh, Nope, that's not good enough. We've got to go though this new building, because that's just what we do.
I think we've got to have a really kind of hard conversation and look at ourselves as an industry in terms of, you know, what the end goal is. I do think that's important and I'm hoping that we can share some of these kinds of stats that we're starting to look at to really sit with that, because if we don't build, then we're, we're gaining a lot of those upfront emissions of those major materials.
And we can focus on investing the money that we would have spent to build new. And retrofitting the buildings that we're updating or going into. So start there, we have to the second thing is then decarbonizing building materials. There's there's kind of two, two legs to that. [00:17:00] There's one, the materials that we use today that we know we're going to keep on.
I think that we all know and hope that we're going to use more bio-based materials, more more wood when it comes to some of the structural components, but we do, we're never going to build everything out of those new materials, concrete and steel up in something that we've had forever. They're going to continue to be there.
They're, they're actually quite necessary when it comes to especially things like infrastructure. So we have to decarbonize the materials we have, and there's a lot of work on that going on right now. Positive things. When we're talking to steel suppliers and manufacturers or investors or submit.
And pilot projects. Now they're popping up like the hybrid hydrogen steel facility in Sweden, or pilot projects incident where they're capturing all the CO2 off the kill and, and figuring out how to liquefy it and what they can do with that, with that CO2. There's tons of money going into that right now.
So I'm confident we're going to be able to. Pretty close to zero. When it comes to how we make things like steel and concrete over time. And then the third thing is investing in those, those new materials. There's all sorts of [00:18:00] things like. Bamboo and hemp that when you start looking at installations and kind of panels, analyze systems and mass timber, like CLT and, and other things that are also, we know they exist, we just need to invest more in it.
We're at this kind of really interesting moment of startup and investment and a ton, a ton of money and opportunity really. If we can do that, don't build what we don't need to to decarbonize. Do you use and find those innovative materials because that's what we think is cool. And it's psychology, you know, humans like to look at all these cool new things and invest in these exciting things.
We do all those three things we're going to, we're going to get there, or at least make really good progress pretty quickly.
James Dice: That makes total sense. So is that what you do at Skanska every day?
Stacy Smedley: At Skanska every day, gosh. A lot of focus on carbon. There's all the other things we also have to think about if we broaden it to the sustainability and environmental impact, so water and waste and local resilience and all the things.
But specific to the carbon emissions side of things, you know, Skanska has [00:19:00] set pretty lofty carbon targets. So we're at 70% reduction in our our own emissions by 2030 and zero carbon, including our values. By 2045, and those are outward facing commitments to public. Yeah, those are board board approved commitments, and they're also we've gotten the science-based targets stamp of approval now, too.
So a lot of it is figuring that out. If we're saying that we're going to do that we have to, you have to do it. So yeah, it's looking at the materials we use. Um, Using tools like to inform our clients and ourselves on the materials that we have, that we can use to reduce carbon emissions. And then it's keeping our eyes on all these new things that are coming up in terms of alternatives that we want to look at and test and pilot on projects.
James Dice: Fascinating. So, so PISA, I want to get the in just a minute. The piece of this that I found myself curious about is really like the, the. Important rating systems. Right? So I grew up consulting on lead projects. I grew up in my past [00:20:00] jobs. I've I've I haven't grown up yet, but um, I've done a lot of lead consulting.
I've done a lot of energy modeling support, lead consulting and part of it that I I'm just struggling to wrap my head around is leading. To me. And I'm definitely not an expert in it, but it seems like, kind of like a boutique thing at this point. And then there are other rating systems, you know, living, building challenge would be one that comes to mind.
I don't know how widespread that one is, but like this concept of like, okay, a certain amount of new buildings get lead certified and then we need to decarbonize everything. Right. So new and existing. And so w how do you think about that gap and how can we kind of like scale up these movements and do we need to, or we just need to just go straight, no carbon, and we don't really need writing systems.
Stacy Smedley: I think there's a. For all of it. So I think there's not ever going to be one kind of golden ticket solution or rating system or, or thing that's. Fit everybody's needs [00:21:00] or desires. So I, at my, my thinking is that as long as the rating systems that people can choose between that fit their needs from either a marketing Laura or a committed or value perspective, rely on the same baselines and data.
So that if you think about it through the lens of lead they have a lifecycle assessment credit where they give you credit for doing these whole building life cycle assessments on your bill. And then showing a reduction. They also have a low carbon procurement credit and pilot that looks at EPDs and the C3.
And lets you use them to show reductions. I LFI is zero carbon certification. Same thing. They give you credit for doing these whole building LCAs for the part, the kind of cradle to installation phase. And then they you must do that and then you have to show reductions. So as long as all the systems are, are putting the same kind of process and ask in place that comes to policy between ed policy on that too.
If we have policy and certification systems, all asking for the same thing, Around decarbonisation around healthy materials around fair labor practices, then it's okay. If we have multiple paths to get there, [00:22:00] as long as the same thing we're working on is, is driving towards that zero impact that we're wanting, whether it's toxicity or carbon or whatever else it is.
So. A lot of the work that we're doing, that I started thinking about with Skanska now, with my building transparency hat on I kind of two headed Stacy able to work on it kind of more broadly. If we can start aligning the ask and the process in my current world, particular to carbon emissions and embodied carbon.
I want you to be able to go use lead or LBC or zero carbon or buy clean policy compliance. I want you to be able to go to all of those things. By doing this one, this one exercise. On your project. So, you know, if the same requirements are everywhere and you have to do it once that's going to accelerate things.
I think we've learned a lot in sustainability and buildings with other things like health disclosure through things like red list or HPDs and all the other things I could list off, we've been duplicative. And I think with embodied carbon we're at this weird time where we can [00:23:00] use those lessons to just be additive and do it one way very well.
That's standardized. And that's just going to accelerate it more, more quickly. That's a long kind of rant on that, but I think it's really important that we kind of align efforts and not be competitive amongst all these different systems or ways of doing.
James Dice: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. There are similar sort of competing that shouldn't be competing standards in the smartphone technology world that we don't need to get into today.
But yeah, there's similar movements. It's like the tide would lift all boats if we would end the competition. That's not how the world works.
Stacy Smedley: You said to be able to make money and have businesses that do that, do these things well. Right. Yeah, but there's gotta be like a baseline starting point to my mind.
James Dice: Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor Nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry [00:24:00] vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.
This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the firstname.lastname@example.org lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview
So potentially controversial question then. So I mentioned the lack of scale that these rating systems have today. Why do you think that is?
Stacy Smedley: I mean, I've worked in all of them in my work as you're doing architecture now and then at Skanska for almost nine years I think that there's always been this nagging perspective or quality that anything around sustainability in green design and construction has a cost associated with it or a time sink. And so when you think about how rating systems are set up, whether it's leader, LBC living, building challenge, There they're checklists and time there's time [00:25:00] associated with, you have to have an expert.
That's going to do the work and understand it. There is an added cost or added potential risk that owners or even GCs could perceive when looking at these things. So I think we have started, there are those of us that do those things really well. We understand lead, understand living, building challenge.
We can tell a client or an owner that we can do this at little to no added cost to get to a certain tier. Certification rating system, whether it's lead gold or, you know, LVC Corp to try to help de-risk some of those things now. But I think that has been the biggest barrier. It's just the convincing that no, we know you want to do this.
You're scared. It's going to cost more. You're scared it's going to be inefficiencies in the design or construction process. We're not smart enough to be able to kind of mitigate some of those. But it takes some time to build your bench of experts that can really do the work.
James Dice: Absolutely fascinating.
All right. So we mentioned you C3 a couple of times. W what is it and what does it stand for?
Stacy Smedley: Sure. Yeah. So if you Google , I think you're going to get easy through the [00:26:00] wrestler first. So we are not associated with ECE through the wrestler. Um, We are the C3 tool, which is the body carbon and construction calculator is what stands for.
It was coconut sieved of, by myself at Skanska and see change labs, a software development company that was trying to find an Elaine and climate tech I found the body carbon form of really deep nerds. And he was like, Hey, I really want to figure out how I can help. So we got together and it was all based on this need that I had found in my role at Skanska around finding the way that we could not just kind of benchmark how much carbon we had in our buildings.
And this is a body carbon bucket, but think about it kind of like we estimate. Where, if you've got a cost per cubic yard of concrete from three suppliers, you can say, okay, this guy is lower than that guy. Time of bid. If we had a carbon intensity per cubic yard of concrete, also, we could do exactly the same thing and have supplier a, B, and C, and their carbon intensity per unit that their mix, and be able to assess them [00:27:00] for the lowest carbon.
So I was trying to figure out a way we could have the cost and the carbon metric next to each other. That led me to environmental product declarations, which are third-party verified documents from the manufacturers for products that give you that carbon intensity for you. And the disclosed way and basically PDF documents.
So I had started to source these carbon intensities. I would go find them on supplier websites. I put them into a box folder. I opened up an Excel spreadsheet. I'd go to page six and find that little carbon intensity table. I put all these things in my Excel spreadsheet and it would take me two hours for one for one project and three.
So my idea was that we needed to find a way to actually digitize all it. There had to be a way where we could create kind of like a clearing house of this information. It should take me like three or four clicks to be able to compare my suppliers and find this information. And so what we did was have I applied for innovation grant through Skanska proof of concept, just digitizing a certain number of these EPDs and.
D database with the user interface Microsoft and came on board second to help seed fund that proof of concept because they were [00:28:00] building a large campus project and Skanska through a joint venture with Balfour, Beatty had been brought on as the GC said, okay, let's pilot. This. And then Madison implements like architects and carbon leadership forum, and a few others got involved and said, yes, this needs to be a industry led thing, Skanska microphones offset.
Let's make it free and open access for industry. And it became became kind of a large industry project. And we got to, by November of 2019 was a database of nine construction material categories full of digitized EPDs that could be sorted in. For carbon intensity and then a project planner that you could actually put in quantities and kind of see your projects.
And it was launched publicly in November of 2019 as a project at the carbon leadership forum. And kind of, we had, I think we have a thousand people on the wait list then we're at 18,000 registered users now, and it's now being hosted and maintained by this non-profit that makes sure that it stays.
And open-access, and mission-driven with funding from all sorts of different industry partners, continuing it's a lot, hopefully that wasn't too rambling, but that's kind of the whole, the [00:29:00] whole story of, of where it came from away currently is incredible.
James Dice: And so how do you do this in your spare time? Or
Stacy Smedley: how does that work?
No Skanska Skanska instead of giving. You know, real dollars right now is donating my time to actually run the nonprofit as an executive director, just to ensure that this thing that you know, that they helped conceive of continues to scale and be adopted and managed and And yes, I'm very lucky.
It's a pretty awesome opportunity to be able to take this thing and make sure that it's scaling that everyone that gave impact and input and funding continues to be able to support it to this nonprofit.
James Dice: So how do people use it? How does it show up, like in the design and construction process?
Stacy Smedley: Sure. Yeah. So we're, we're a pretty kind of, if you look at the pie chart of our current users it's pretty. I think at 50% architects, I think it's actually more like 30% architects, 15% GCs, structural engineers, sustainability consultants, owners, manufacturers. So there's really a different way that each, where are you saying how you use it's [00:30:00] different?
If you're an architect, if you're looking at a project that's kind of in design development, you know, you're building it out of steel and concrete and you've got ceiling tiles and carpet and gypsum board and installation, you can build your project in the tool using rabbit rabbit material quantities that can be important.
And then you can start to compare to the materials for each category. So I have this much gypsum board. These are the suppliers in my in my search that have this range of carbon emissions. So there's a range of what's possible. I can compare my gypsum suppliers and say, okay, spell your excess, a lower carbon option.
So I'm going to specify that guy as my basis of design. So architects can really find the hotspots using the rabbit in to get the quantities, and then look at the suppliers and set those kinds. I want you to start costing based on this guy, because he meets my requirements and his low carbon structures and your same thing when it comes to concrete and steel, just really understanding, you know, when you change material quantities, how does that affect.
Your is, but that also, you know, who are the steel suppliers [00:31:00] and actual mills that are lower carbon. If I want to start putting that in my specs, how do I write a concrete spec to make sure I'm getting low carbon options? Contractors are really in charge of, of doing the realized accounting. So, there are some of our owner partners that are requiring the GCs now to create
So I have this much of all these things I have as much concrete and steel. And then I know I got it from the supplier. So I'm gonna go pick as EPD in the tool. So here owner X, here's your actual carbon emissions for your project? Based on the fond needs we installed in the materials we used. GCs can also use it during pre-construction to do an initial estimate, just kind of like a cost estimate and just Skanska has just recently announced that they are committing to doing that on all projects over 5,000.
It's square meters starting in 2022. So how can we start just taking the quantities during estimate time and creating these carbon estimates? That just become part of our, our estimating process. So the owners require it. So there's going to be the ones that say, we're going to use a C3 to do this accounting, and we want you to give us these reports and actually.
Reduce carbon minus percentage or use the tool to show us our our carbon [00:32:00] emissions of our projects manufacturers are using it, which is interesting to actually go in and see how they compare to their competitors. And then kind of take ownership of their data and the tool and make sure that it's it's, it's reading as they want it to, from a kind of performance perspective and images and things.
Yeah, and the policy are using it too. So we're actually informing the kind of state and federal procurement policies in terms of how much data is there. Where are the gaps? Can we start setting limits for our carbon intensity per unit for steel, things like that, you know, playing all the buckets.
James Dice: Is there a concept for what a building should like per square foot? Be at like, and you have the benchmarking, right. This UI should be somewhere in this range compared to willingness to each other. Yeah. So is there similar
Stacy Smedley: metrics? Yeah, so I I've been calling it either. I've either see to be called a carbon use intensity or embodied carbon use intensity, but it's very similar.
It's just kilograms of CO2 per square foot [00:33:00] or square. It's easy to get to when you have the material quantities and the amounts and the square footage of the building. So it's, it's very similar to me. And in my mind, we should eventually had EUI plus ECU Y and you have a total seat by, okay. So I think that's coming to get to that kind of number right now.
The carbon leadership forum did an embodied carbon benchmarking study it probably about four or five years now where they just collected all the different carbon footprints that have been done by anyone that. And try to normalize those for the different building types. If you look at the zero carbon certification, they have a limit, it tends to be around 500 kilograms of CO2 per square meter, which is 50 around 50 kilograms of CO2 per square foot as kind of a general conservative, starting point.
I think it can range from like, if we're doing it in square feet, 30 to six, Somewhere in there, depending on the building type, but that benchmarking studies, we can, you could link to that too. It's actually available where you can go sort the data and start to look at the, the [00:34:00] ranges on a per square meter or per square foot basis.
James Dice: cool. Yeah, I think I did come across that at some another hard question I wanted to ask you about was the construction processes, very difficult to change, right? And so if we think about this tool, that sounds like a game changer.
All right. How do we modify, how do we insert this new technology into the construction process? And is that challenging right now? I guess. And what's the kind of the roadmap to kind of disrupting the construction process,
Stacy Smedley: as we know, I think because we had such a great kind of brain trust folks. And putting their thoughts into it as we were developing.
So there was, there was myself, there was others on the GC side from companies like Webcore and now Turner who's a pilot partner structural engineers, like MKA and ultra be more architects, principals. You have all these different folks basically helped us create the. So we've tried to make it as user-friendly as possible and as easy [00:35:00] to implement as possible from a GC perspective, the way I've seen that used during pre-construction right now is if you just start with a list of six materials, like concrete steel, you know, framing gypsum board, et cetera, it could be a list of maybe 20 things.
And the pre-construction estimator is just, just like they do with their onscreen, takeoff and Timberline or x-rays or whatever. They're just inputting those things into . At the same time, it might take them an hour. It's not 20 hours. So if we've tried to make it as translatable as possible in terms of how other things are currently done, the estimating example, I guess, is one of them where it's just another thing that the estimator knows yes to do at the deliverable time.
And it's just one more hour long exercise. I think when it comes to construction, You know, currently right now, the GCs are creating an account and just doing the same thing where they're just building this as another exercise they have to do. It would be amazing to integrate with the tools that GCs are using.
And we have some conversations ongoing. Like if we can, if we can insert this into a tool or a process or a workflow that already exists in terms of what that project engineer project manager [00:36:00] is using or doing, or it's just, Hey, I got to put in my asphalt quantities and click the EPD as part of this other bigger effort that I'm already doing for invoicing or for what.
I think that's how we start to really open it up to a lot of the GCs that might be worried that it's going to be, you know, more FTE time that they then have to put into their, their general conditions for an owner. We've again, I don't, I, right now I can say with some degree of confidence and certainty that it's not like this is a one FTE add to a project it's a few hours a week or per design deliverable phase.
And hopefully that makes it more palatable just as a starting point. It's also free. So the tool's free. So that's another barrier that we've tried to take away. The students have Kelly set things up.
James Dice: Cool. So what's the future of the tool? Like where do you think this will be headed longterm?
Stacy Smedley: Gosh, it's already.
When it was launched in 2019, it was a north American focus tool, or you're just trying to get the data. And from north American suppliers, we now have EPDs from all over [00:37:00] the world. And we have partnerships that we've developed with right now with the program operators and their consortium in Europe called eco platform to try to align how we do all of this and digitize it.
So I see it already is now a global database, but quickly becoming a very comprehensive global database of. EBD that exists from any supplier and we're on that path right now. And hopefully the place that people can start either access the data and put it in their own tools because you can't do that and take the whole database out through an API, into any tool you want to align the data source.
But also something that global policy can turn to because it's. Database in a standard format to start to look at things like carbon intensities and border justice, carbon tax, and all sorts of crazy stuff. But that's not really that crazy when you think about what we need to do and what a lot of the cop cop countries just agreed to do, which is really start to look at how they procure these things.
They're going to need a place to go to procure these things in a way that's globally standardized. So I, I hope that that's where we are and just, you know, not 10 years, maybe five.
James Dice: [00:38:00] fascinating. So it seems like to me that there's like a, so we talked about the whole cycle of emissions, right?
Well, you're talking about is the initial selection right. Of the material. And then a lot of what we cover on this show, it also is like the, obviously the ONM phase of the building, right. Where you have this continuing effort to digitize more and more of the operations. And there's this concept of a digital twin or a digital asset register.
Right. So what do you see those digital. Platforms, I guess, connecting to each other, like how, how, and what will we use it for when we start to use this data in the operating phase?
Stacy Smedley: Yeah, I mean, I think so again the two parts of the C3 or the database of all these carbon intensities and products and materials.
And then the second part is our UI that allows people to use it during the design phase. I think the database actually comes the more powerful object in the future. When you start to think about things like digital twins and how you could basically attach the carbon [00:39:00] carbon factors out from the database to.
Whatever system you're using to do that. If you update a material or replace the material, you would then swap out that carbon intensity to a new carbon intensity for the new material and be able to track it in real time. And I am not a software developer. I've learned a lot in the past couple of years about how this all works, but for me, it's all about API APIs and the ability to open API APIs that enable this information to translate between tools in a standardized way.
So that it is. I guess applicable, but shared ecosystem of APIs that attach all of these different carbon factors and things we need on the environmental side to all the tools that need to basically use it. And how those kind of merge together. I started to draw this out at one point and it got all these bubbles got all over the place.
It was not a, it's not an easy to download infographic. But I think there is a pathway to.
James Dice: Yeah. I mean, to me, the main value would be when you're switching out and replacing materials. So right now, a lot of times a decision like [00:40:00] that is made off of ROI that that's usually upfront costs versus operating savings.
Right now you're talking about upfront costs, operating savings. Yes. But also ongoing and embodied carbon in the retrofit project. So then you didn't have the ability to then make a better decision. Correct.
Stacy Smedley: Yeah. Or even just help owners set longer replacement cycles or think about, think about things just a little bit differently in terms of even things as mundane as roofing replacement.
Right. We just do it every 10 years because that's what we do. Well, maybe that roof actually lasts 20 years and here's what happens if you actually let it last 20 years.
James Dice: Absolutely. Yeah. And again, we like the amount of commitments that are being made. It's like we, we have to do it. And so it's not necessarily like, should we, it's like the only way in which these commitments get, get met as if we start to integrate these tools, these sorts of tools into the processes.
Fascinating. Well, thanks so much for coming [00:41:00] on the show. I've learned a ton listening to you. Do you want to end off with a little fun two truths and a lie?
Stacy Smedley: Oh boy, here we go. All right. So I'm going to give you the three and then you have to decide which one's the lie. Yes, you've already, you said you've already stalked me a little bit on LinkedIn, so I'm trying to think of things that wouldn't be on there too.
Um, I have been on the Oprah Winfrey show. I've met and played for Juul
and I have.
James Dice: Oh, that one's tough, but if there's one, that's a random fact um, I'm going to go with that, whatever this is, it's going to be a good story. At the end, I'll go with the brother is the lie
Stacy Smedley: you're right.
James Dice: All right. You're correct. And now you must tell the story of Oprah and Juul.
Stacy Smedley: Answer why the third one's a lie.
So I actually have 16 half [00:42:00] siblings that are all donor siblings. My mom used a sperm donor to have me in 1980, before it was kind of normal or something that's more talked about. She was a single woman that wanted to want to do. Uh, And then the Oprah Winfrey show reached out after I matched with my first half-brother.
He was a peace Corps volunteer in Africa that I found on this donor sibling registry site. We were the only matched grownups. So their Oprah, Oprah Oprah show wanted to have us on to talk about what it was like to find our sibling as a grownup. They flew in from Togo to Portland. We met. Like he got off the train and we got this train station leading that they taped and they fight us to Chicago and we were on the show and I may have made Oprah cry in terms of her watching our little video.
So still bro, it was like right here. Wow. But since then we found 15 more donor siblings. We all talk to each other every day and we, yeah. It's pretty fun. That is incredible. Wow. Yeah. And then Juul. People say that I have really good luck. So I'm in the [00:43:00] fan club. Obviously I told, told you that I started playing guitar because Juul was my hero when I was 16.
So I was part of her fan club and it was sweet. My mom and I have seen her 21 times lie. We see her every summer, wherever she is, we find a place that was like, Hey, enter to win a chance to, to interview Juul. So I just entered the fan club thing and I won it and I got to go backstage with her and ask her a bunch of questions, but I brought my guitar and I played her at an original song and she signed my guitar.
That's pretty awesome.
James Dice: That is so cool. Wow. This might be my peak two truths and a lie on the podcast.
Stacy Smedley: I don't mind sharing only things, so,
James Dice: wow. Well, we're going to have to. Or our podcasts editors, Zack is going to have to go down a search rabbit hole of maybe include some things if they're on the internet.
But again, Stacy, thank you so much for coming on the show and and thanks for everything you do. I mean, this is really important work right now, [00:44:00] as you're aware of. And
Stacy Smedley: I appreciate the chance to talk all about it. I kind of, I kind of love talking about it. I also like doing stuff about it. So, let's keep on doing that.
James Dice: Don't be surprised if there are nexus listeners that reach out and want to collaborate in some way. And I hope they do.
Stacy Smedley: All right. So, yeah. Thanks.
James Dice: All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.