Schemmer Commits to the SE 2050 Initiative 

 Schemmer Commits to the SE 2050 Initiative

We firmly believe that reducing embodied carbon and other environmental impacts from our designs is the engineering problem of our generation. We know that it is our responsibility as stewards of the built environment to ensure we do not leave severe unintended consequences future designers cannot solve. It is our hope that we can leave a legacy of continuously improving the quality of our designs and minimizing the impact we leave.” – Elena Hoff, P.E. 

The mission of the SE 2050 Commitment is to transform the practice of structural engineering in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project-based, and data-driven. By prioritizing the reduction of embodied carbon, through the use of less impactful structural materials, participating firms can more easily work toward net-zero embodied carbon structural systems by 2050.  

What is SE 2050?

SE 2050 stands for the Structural Engineers 2050 Commitment Program which is in response to the SE 2050 Challenge issued in 2019 by the Sustainability Committee of the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. This comprehensive program has been designed to ensure substantive embodied carbon reductions in the design and construction of structural systems by the collective structural engineering profession.  

The hope is that through small changes in our design practice every year, we will be much better positioned to consistently reach net zero embodied carbon designs by the year 2050. 

What’s the next step? 

In 2023, Schemmer will create an Embodied Carbon Action Plan (ECAP). The ECAP will detail how we will:  

  • Educate our staff on embodied carbon 
  • Report the embodied carbon of our projects 
  • Document our embodied carbon reduction strategies 
  • Advocate within the industry 

Schemmer has already taken its first step by educating our entire staff on what sustainability means to Schemmer and how embodied carbon affects all of our designs.  Our sustainability committee hosted an all company Lunch and Learn in February to start the education process and gain momentum as we unveil future sustainability goals.

We look forward to working with our clients to utilize our sustainable design knowledge and deliver excellent and holistic project designs to meet their needs. 

What is Embodied Carbon? 

Embodied carbon is the sum of greenhouse gas emissions released during the following life-cycle stages:

  • Raw material extraction 
  • Transportation 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Construction 
  • Maintenance 
  • Renovation 
  • End-of-life for a product or system 

Embodied carbon is reported as global warming potential (GWP) and is measured relative to the impact of one molecule of carbon dioxide. It is usually measured over a 100-year time frame. 

Embodied carbon is different from embodied energy, which only accounts for the energy used in all life-cycle phases of the engineered system, regardless of the energy source. Some embodied energy may be from renewable sources and would not be considered a significant source of global warming potential. (Source 

Ways to Reduce Embodied Carbon 

Reducing embodied carbon in our projects requires designers to apply our skills as architects and engineers in the areas of system and material efficiency as well as in materials science.  

As designers we can: 

  1. Provide suggestions to reduce embodied carbon throughout the design and construction of a building or engineered system through our understanding of construction sequence and economics. 
  2. Reduce carbon within the project program, while maintaining cost and construction schedule limits by studying embodied carbon and how it’s distributed throughout the building. 
  3. Learn more about low-carbon alternative materials and work with suppliers to specify them on projects without additional cost. 
  4. Track embodied carbon in our designs through Whole Building Life Cycle Assessments during the design phase to educate the design team on potential savings. A life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluates the environmental impacts, including embodied carbon, associated with all of the stages of a product or building’s life. The stages include raw material extraction, manufacturing, distribution, construction/assembly, maintenance/repair, and disposal/recycling. (Source 

With our clients, we can: 

  1. Hold sustainability design charrettes at the beginning of each project and invite the structural engineers to help with initial system selections and layouts that will result in a lower carbon footprint than complicated alternatives.  
  2. Determine a carbon budget for the project. Setting a threshold for embodied carbon in our designs can provide guidance to the design team on what the acceptable limits are for global warming potential associated with the design.  


Schemmer is a full-service architecture, engineering, and construction field services, consultant. Providing responsible solutions for complex design and construction-related challenges.

Founded in 1959, we are grounded in our past but remain fully committed to the future. Located in five States and nine offices throughout the Midwest, Schemmer is providing services to clients from coast-to-coast and border-to-border across the United States.

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