Carbon Challenge

Carbon Challenge

In the Carbon Challenge Residential Design Competition, the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and APA – The Engineered Wood Association (APA) are challenging residential designers to create a new home design while considering the impact that building materials have on the environment.

Fossil fuel use and climate change are important environmental issues facing our nation today. The common denominator for these concerns is greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere when fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, are burned for energy or when organic materials decay. While most people are aware that North American forests help to address climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, less well known is the fact that wood products continue to store carbon, thus keeping it out of the atmosphere indefinitely. Substituting wood products for fossil fuel-intensive alternatives also results in significant amounts of “avoided” greenhouse gas emissions.

Through a series of local design competitions and educational seminars, FPL and APA are encouraging designers and builders to meet this environmental challenge by rethinking their perceptions of construction materials and by designing and constructing homes with lower carbon footprints. As part of the Carbon Challenge, designers will be introduced to cutting edge life-cycle assessment tools that can be used not only for the design competition, but also to help make intelligent, environmentally-conscious and sustainable choices in their future building enclosure designs.

To learn more about the Carbon Challenge, you can read the original press release.

Carbon Challenge News & Updates

Winners Announced in Baltimore & Providence

March 2013

During awards ceremonies on March 26, 2013 in Providence, RI, and March 28, 2013 in Baltimore, MD, several local architects were recognized as winners in the 2012 Carbon Challenge Residential Design Competition, a home-design competition that challenged participants to consider the environmental impact of building materials. The competition focused on two types of homes—a Habitat for Humanity house in Providence, R.I., and an urban row house in Baltimore. Using life-cycle assessment software from the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, designers were able to determine the impact of the greenhouse gas emissions from the products in their designs. Along with each entry’s carbon footprint, the judges considered its use of wood, its cost-effectiveness, and its aesthetic.

In Providence, the Grand Prize was awarded to ZeroEnergy Design (design pictured above). In Baltimore, Phillip Jones of Cho Benn Holback + Associates took top honors. Cash prizes totaling $20,000 were awarded to all of the winners across multiple categories.

“We were extremely impressed by the entries to the Carbon Challenge Design Competition; the designers took innovative approaches to reducing the home’s carbon footprint while achieving both aesthetic appeal and optimal building performance,” said Bob Clark, senior engineered wood specialist for APA. “The entries clearly reflect the excitement of their designers for creating sustainable building solutions. These designs will improve not only the livability of homes, but also of the surrounding community.”

Carbon Challenge Partners & Sponsors

December 2012

Carbon Challeng Partners and Sponsors





About the FPL
The US Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) was established in 1910 to conduct research and technology transfer to improve the utilization of our forest resource.

About APA
Founded in 1933, APA – The Engineered Wood Association is a nonprofit trade association serving the wood structural panel and engineered wood products industries. Its primary functions include quality auditing and testing, applied research and market development.