Low-Carbon Labs: Embodied Carbon and What You Can Do About It

Jacob Werner, Perkins & Will
Elizabeth Mikula, Perkins & Will

Laboratory building embodied carbon is significant, due to intensive structure, finishes, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Recent projects are experimenting with designs uncommon to labs: cross-laminated timber structure, wood cladding, demountable partitions, and casework options. Low-Carbon Labs collects these into a common framework for evaluating their carbon benefits. The project evaluates three choices for 12 different building systems within a 22' x 88' lab module. Choices are aligned with three scenarios on a spectrum from conservative to progressive embodied carbon design. Baseline includes system options found in conventional labs. Improved represents options found in progressive projects. Reimagined represents best options discovered for each system. This presentation summarizes the findings of Low-Carbon Labs and explores how these lessons might translate to future low-carbon building projects.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the potential for reducing embodied carbon in all facilities, including complex buildings like laboratories;
  • Identify the challenges of calculating embodied carbon for a variety of building systems;
  • Seek out low-carbon alternatives for different building elements, including structure, envelope, and interior finishes; and
  • Understand the need for transparency and Environmental Product Declaration documentation for more building products and systems.


Jacob Werner, AIA, is a Senior Project Architect at Perkins&Will, in Boston. Jacob has devoted his 20 year career to designing intuitive environments for scientific discovery. His recent research efforts include the I2SL Best Practices Guide: Laboratory Resilience and ongoing research into Embodied Carbon reduction in lab projects.

Elizabeth Mikula is a Technical Coordinator at Perkins&Will, in Boston. Elizabeth's design interests lie at the intersection of Health Sciences and Laboratory Research, and her project work reflects this. Recently, Elizabeth has dedicated time to research on Embodied Carbon reduction in lab projects.


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