Democratizing Decarbonization

Jack Rusk
3 min readApr 23, 2023

Originally published on the EHDD Perspectives blog

On June 21st, 2022, we launched the Early Phase Integrated Carbon Assessment (EPIC) tool as a web application. This milestone came after two years of development, validation, review, and a good deal of uncertainty. When we started, EPIC was a moonshot: could a lightweight whole-carbon model support early decisions and strategies for deep carbonization?

The answer is an emphatic YES. We’ve realized the potential of EPIC as an early-phase tool in our own pursuits and projects, like the zero carbon AIA headquarters renovation, and we now use the tool across our firm’s work. It also became clear that we should not keep EPIC to ourselves, nor lock it up behind a paywall. We need collective effort, scale, and speed to catch up with the climate crisis. To support our Climate Positive commitment, EHDD is making EPIC available for free to everyone — architects and engineers, building owners, campus planners, and real estate developers — as we all work together to decarbonize our built environment.

EPIC informs whole life carbon strategies at the beginning of the project, when data is scarce but the potential for impact is highest.

We designed EPIC and offered it for free to democratize decarbonization. We’ve done our best to keep the app simple to use, its results easy to interpret, and its data and methods accessible. Since its initial release in 2020, EPIC has been a forerunner in “whole life carbon” assessment — bringing together estimates of operational carbon, embodied carbon, and carbon storage in the landscape.

Bridging between a complex data model and a simple user experience, EPIC illustrated that every project has a pathway to lower carbon emissions. And as EPIC guides projects toward decarbonization, project teams can focus on how carbon emissions reductions connect with improving human health, creating social equity, and restoring ecological function.

Our public launch of EPIC is a stepping stone, not a conclusion. New data is becoming available, while methods and expectations for carbon assessments are developing rapidly. User feedback will continue to guide EPIC’s development, keeping the tool turned to the most impactful decisions.

We are beginning to extend EPIC for use in larger-scale planning processes. As campuses, corporations, and developers set carbon neutrality targets, forward-looking projections of operational and embodied missions become essential elements of development and capital improvement planning. This emerging version of EPIC will allow for lightweight and dynamic projections of climate impacts to plan decarbonization at the campus or the portfolio scale.

EPIC, as an early phase tool, opens conversation within a project. With its public launch, we hope to expand the conversation across the whole industry. If you’re looking to learn more, reach out.

EPIC’s open access dashboard helps project teams plan low-carbon buildings

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Jack Rusk

I'm a Climate Strategist at EHDD Architecture, building open access tools to decarbonize buildings with speed and at scale.