Sustainability leader joins proactive, action-oriented group of designers, structural engineers and consultants to reduce emissions and mitigate effects of climate change

LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK — As climate hazards increase and impact people around the world, Buro Happold has joined SE 2050, a unique carbon pledge encouraging all structural engineers to understand, reduce and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in their projects by 2050, spearheaded by the American Society of Civil Engineers and its Structural Engineering Institute, or SEI. As a key signatory — and led internally by the structural engineer Stephen Curtis, P.E., principal and regional discipline leader for the firm’s structures team — Buro Happold has pledged its commitment to the Structural Engineers 2050 Commitment Program, known as SE 2050, created in response to a 2019 challenge by the same name led by SEI’s Sustainability Committee.

“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,” according to SEI. Adding context, Buro Happold’s Curtis explains that SE 2050 is an unprecedented opportunity to coordinate action across the structural engineering profession to reach a critical objective.

“At Buro Happold we already have ongoing commitments to reduce the embodied carbon intensity of our projects,” says the engineer Curtis. “The SE2050 initiative creates the opportunity to bring together our commitments and those of other organizations in the profession under one overall and common goal, promoting collaboration and sharing of approaches as we all work to achieve them.”

Buro Happold, which has hundreds of structural engineers globally in 30 offices and growing, is a widely recognized leader in sustainability and climate action, including with its own longstanding carbon pledge. Buro Happold had already committed to reducing the embodied carbon intensity of the firm’s projects by 50% by 2030, on top of their set to be net zero by the 2020/2021 fiscal year. The firm handily achieved the net-zero goal by setting “science-based targets to reduce carbon emissions and offsetting residual emissions.”

Innovations in the field of climate impact and carbon reduction have included Buro Happold’s award-winning BHoM Life Cycle Assessment Toolkit, an open-source, datadriven framework for design professionals to measure embodied carbon of all elements in building design, including structures. The LCA toolkit uses Buro Happold’s own Buildings and Habitats object Model (BHoM) data exchange network, created in 2016 to deliver a stable framework for code generated by architects and engineers globally.

Buro Happold has also led various market sectors in creating the world’s most sustainable and low-carbon buildings, campuses, cities and regions. Recent projects specifically designed to meet low-carbon pledge commitments include: University of Pennsylvania’s Amy Gutmann Hall, a six-floor facility with a novel mass timber structure; Arizona State University’s ISTB-7 research complex designed to meet LEED Gold Certification at a minimum; and Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper Quad, both with innovative voided slab systems using significantly less concrete that traditional designs.

For the SE 2050 coalition to achieve its widely publicized goal of net-zero carbon by 2050, the Structural Engineering Institute has empowered the SE 2050 Commitment Program to pursue a number of proactive initiatives, including:

  • Educating structural engineers on best practices of sustainable design and construction.
  • Engaging in a unique tracking program for embodied carbon across a wide swath of the structural engineering profession to help set targets.
  • Reporting on the current embodied carbon impacts and trends of various structural systems for different regions throughout the country.
  • Communicating with project owners, allied designers, the construction community and the public to increase understanding of how they can reduce carbon impacts.

“With this proactive stance and the wide engagement by SE 2050 of leaders in structural engineering everywhere, we stand to make significant progress in cutting carbon in buildings, bridges, and other structures globally,” says Buro Happold’s Curtis, who also led the structural design of Harvard University’s Science and Engineering Complex to help achieve LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications. “We applaud the efforts by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Structural Engineering Institute in taking this important leadership stake.”

In dozens of engineering and consulting disciplines, Buro Happold is a recognized leader in climate action for municipalities, blue-chip companies and top institutions worldwide. Buro Happold recently unveiled a comprehensive sustainability plan for Los Angeles County as well as a climate action and adaptation plan for the City of West Hollywood, Calif. In 2017, the firm pioneered with New York City and C40 Cities — a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change — by creating the first climate action plan in the world to comply with The Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change. Buro Happold has also completed a multiyear effort on climate action and resilience for the City of Cambridge, Mass., and also collaborated with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to develop regional climate actions in the Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis–St. Paul and Washington, D.C. metropolitan regions

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