Engineering Inc. - July/August 2009 - (Page 5)

mARkEt WAtCh A Is Carbon Footprint Calculation the Next Big Market? & Exchange in Gainesville, Fla., who recently led an ACEC-sponsored seminar on carbon footprinting opportunities for engineers. Definitions and Examples By Joe Salimando s human beings, we leave a significant carbon footprint. Our automobiles and factories release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. Even our bodies take in oxygen and exhale CO2. This is the same CO2 that reportedly causes atmospheric problems, leading—many believe—to melting polar ice caps and elevated ocean levels and, perhaps ultimately, to the sinking of our coastal cities. But to hear sustainability proponents tell it, all of that can be prevented, or at least slowed, should we reduce our carbon footprint. Popularized by activists and peppered throughout new corporate sustainability reports, the carbon footprint concept now is working its way into legal discussions at the state and federal level. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-andtrade program. Opportunities The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines the term “carbon footprint” as “the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by an entity such as a person, household, building, organization or company.” Let’s say there’s a petroleum industry meeting in San Francisco. If 525 people fly to the event, as a group they use a large amount of gas for travel, not to mention energy and other resources for lodging. But there are alternatives. Consider an online meeting, where people can get together virtually and avoid the costly environmental impact of travel. Online meetings might not work for everyone—such events can limit perceived benefits and lead to lower attendance— but are worth considering. There also is the concept of “carbon offsets.” Say, for example, that a rock concert will lead to an elevated output of carbon within a community. To counter the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, organizers could purchase “offsets” in the form of renewable energy sources for the community—tree planting, for example. Confusion and Clarity Carbon Footprint Sampler try these resources for further information about carbon footprinting: Carbon Disclosure Project—an international nonprofit organization formed in 2000. Carbon Trust—a U.K.-based organization committed to reducing carbon emissions. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool—from the World Resources Institute. Managing Corporate Carbon—an interesting Q&A with an expert, posted to The Carbon Catablog. many corporations are already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints. Below are a few examples: AstraZeneca—the pharmaceutical giant reported a 5 percent decrease in corporate emissions from 2007 to 2008. BASF—it claims to be the “first company in industry” to publish a “carbon balance” (which it did for the first time in 2008). BT Americas—this division of the telecommunications conglomerate claims to have reduced its carbon footprint by 60 percent since 1996. Cadbury—yes, even chocolate makers have a footprint. Whether carbon footprinting becomes a legal must, or simply lingers on our environmental conscience, the practice presents opportunities for firms with the right expertise. “Municipalities now want to know what the footprint of a proposed project will be, and engineers need to be able to respond to these new requirements,” says Mark van Soestbergen, founder of the International Carbon Bank There are, as yet, no rules that establish exactly how to calculate a carbon footprint. Corporate social responsibility is not new, but the infusion of sustainability into the social lexicon is evolving. Engineering firms considering entering this arena would be premature to expect an immediate road to riches. There still is much to learn. But there clearly is a need— nationally, locally and within virtually every company of any size—for experts who provide unbiased, accurate information on the carbon footprints we leave behind, whether in building infrastructure or in conducting our daily lives. The construction industry, for example, might eventually decide that carbon footprint calculation is a necessary piece of standard engineering work. If that happens, corporations, institutions and governments likely will require carbon footprint detailing for entire projects and specific options. Joe Salimando writes frequently on the construction industry at He can be reached at ecdotcom@ July / AuGust 2009 ENGINEERING INC. 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Engineering Inc. - July/August 2009

Engineering Inc. - July/August 2009
Table of Contents
From ACEC to You
News and Notes
Market Watch
Legislative Action
Cover Story: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Holding Court
Guest Column
2009 ACEC Professional Liability Insurance Survey
2009-2010 Executive Committee
2009 Fall Conference Primer
Members in the News
One On One

Engineering Inc. - July/August 2009