The structural system is commonly a large contributor to the embodied carbon in new construction projects. Because of this, when major decisions about structural systems are made late in the design process, the designer’s ability to influence carbon impacts due to structural decisions is restricted. This can leave the embodied carbon impact of structural design as secondary to major design decisions made by architects before a structural engineer has been engaged. Similarly, early-stage carbon estimation can be limited by structural assumptions, including selection and estimation of structural systems and structural volumes. Exploring the feasibility of early-stage structural volume estimation, especially as it can be applied in analyzing embodied carbon (CO2e) studies, has the potential to bring the carbon impact of structural systems into the design discussion at earlier and earlier stages, when the costs of design changes are lower, and the potential impact is greater. By developing a methodology for estimating structural volumes based on initial architectural decisions such as building footprint, floor area, floor-to-floor heights, and preliminary structural selections, this research serves to bridge the gap between decision making and analysis to achieve effective and applicable early-stage embodied carbon analysis.


Sara Laudeman is an architectural researcher at cove.tool, where she is working to encourage the use of data-driven design to reduce the climate impact of the built environment. She also serves as an adjunct instructor in architectural technology at Central Piedmont Community College and has collaborated on research in computational design. Sara has experience in the professional practice of architecture and project management. She holds a Master of Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and undergraduate degrees in architecture and mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She aims to explore the relationship between professional practice and research in the field of architecture with primary interests in analytical and computational design, which stem from the intersection of architecture and mathematics.