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#11 Andrew Himes of Carbon Innovations

February 13, 2018

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When we think of green buildings, we typically think of operational efficiency. But what if the building process itself was greener? What if we used local building materials that didn’t have to be transported? And what if we sequestered carbon from the atmosphere and used it in the building materials themselves?

Andrew Himes is a partner at Carbon Innovations, currently working with the University of Washington’s Carbon Smart Building Initiative. The project seeks to transform the built environment from an existential threat to a net carbon sink that absorbs more than a billion tons of CO2 each year by converting captured carbon into useful building products and creating market demand for carbon capture.

Andrew has a background in activism and technology, serving as the founding editor for MacTech and co-founding the Microsoft Developer Network before becoming a nonprofit startup specialist. Today he  joins Ross and Christophe to share the vision of the Embodied Carbon Network, explaining the concept of embodied carbon emissions and the necessity of accelerating their reduction. We discuss the challenges around motivating people to adopt carbon removal practices and validating that carbon was, indeed, removed efficiently and permanently. Listen in to understand how the blockchain could facilitate the reduction of embodied carbon and learn how the Carbon Smart Building Initiative is leading the global effort to rethink how we interact with each other and the Earth.

Key Takeaways

[2:21] How Andrew’s background led to his work with Carbon Innovations

  • Civil rights, anti-war activist
  • Founded MacTech magazine
  • Cofounded Microsoft Developer Network
  • Created Charter for Compassion International
  • Mission to capture carbon, put into products

[8:36] The Carbon Smart Building Initiative 

  • Considers embodied carbon emissions required to build
  • Carbon captured and utilized in building materials

[11:15] Andrew’s vision for transforming the built environment

  • Includes roads, ports, bridges and buildings
  • Accounts for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions
  • Only five of 2038’s 20 biggest cities exist today
  • Carbon net zero in every new building
  • Sequester 1B tons of carbon each year
  • Existing buildings refitted for operational efficiency

[16:32] The definition of embodied carbon

  • Accounting technique for sum impact of emissions attributed to building materials
  • Includes extraction, manufacturing, construction, maintenance and disposal

[19:28] Andrew’s take on what motivates people

  • Decisions based on ethics, beauty/comfort and economics
  • ‘Carbon handprint’ gives agency to actively create solution

[26:10] Andrew’s insight around the challenges of creating a carbon removal marketplace

  • Validating numbers, verify carbon removed effectively/permanently
  • Designing mechanism to measure stored carbon in built environment

[30:01] The monetization of carbon removal

  • Companies advertise importance of reducing emissions, but don’t track
  • Nori could provide marketplace for companies earning CRCs

[33:46] The challenges of the Embodied Carbon Network

  • Building of any kind emits carbon
  • Local sourcing of materials

[36:07] How the blockchain might help facilitate the reduction of embodied carbon

  • Life cycle inventory open source database available to all
  • Thousands could contribute to add data, improve analysis
  • Measure, validate carbon sequestration through entire supply chain

[42:53] Andrew’s aspiration for a hopeful future 

  • Global effort to rethink how interact with each other, Earth
  • Supporting leadership/freedom of women would reduce climate change

Resources

Carbon Leadership Forum

Embodied Carbon Network

LEED

Life Cycle Assessment by Kate Simonen

Climate of Hope by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope

DRAWDOWN: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken

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