Accelerating Carbon Management for our Customers, Industries, and the Globe

Here’s a quick thought experiment: what if society doesn’t address climate change? Answer: The world will go on without us. Yes, the planet will be warmer, inhospitable and more climatically dangerous, but the biosphere will adapt. Climate change is an existential threat—but only to people. If we humans disappeared from the planet, the earth would be just fine.

As someone whose job it is to focus on business solutions for societal problems, I think about this all the time. We need to stop climate change because of the impacts it will have on future generations. Hence, the urgency I feel as I lead Autodesk’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) and impact work. And the satisfaction I find in knowing we are providing our customers with tools to turn the tide on global carbon emissions.

Our customers and their industries impart significant social value. They design and build infrastructure, cars, and phones—all the things society wants and needs. Yet the same industries are associated with 60%[1] of total greenhouse gas emissions. We need to decarbonize these industries, and everyone knows it–it’s now a question of how, and at what pace.

Aerial view of building construction site.

We are converging on the how (less energy and less materials, better energy and better materials) while the pace of change is rapidly accelerating. In a survey of six industry sectors, we found that nearly 90%[2] of respondents plan to adopt technology solutions to manage their carbon footprint. These industries understand that mitigating their cost to the climate makes business sense and adds to their already tremendous societal value.

I invite you to read Autodesk’s FY22 Impact Report to learn how we’re empowering our customers to advance a more sustainable world.

We’ve always had big ambitions; this year, you’ll see how we’re continuing to deliver on them, especially when it comes to carbon management. Here are a few customer examples from the report that outline how we are enabling this industry transition.

Curbing carbon in high-performance building design

Sustainable architecture design firm Lake|Flato Architects is a leader in total carbon management, using the Autodesk ecosystem to meet operational and embodied carbon goals.

To manage operational carbon, the firm uses Autodesk Insight to accurately model the impact of design decisions on the overall energy consumption of each project. For embodied carbon, Lake|Flato uses Tally, the first lifecycle assessment app that works with Revit to calculate the environmental impacts of building materials. Tally’s list of materials and quantities imports directly into the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), an open-source tool built by Building Transparency and developed with nearly 50 industry partners including Autodesk. The result is a more efficient workflow that optimizes both tools’ capabilities.

And the payoff is impactful. For the Hotel Magdalena project in Austin, Texas, Lake|Flato designed a 5-building complex constructed of mass timber. They found that switching to a mass-timber structural system reduced embodied carbon up to 58%, depending on how much mass timber is replacing concrete or steel.

Located in the heart of downtown Austin, Lake|Flato’s recent Hotel Magdalena project is the first mass timber boutique hotel constructed in North America and demonstrates the total carbon benefits of this approach compared to more conventional construction. Image courtesy of Casey Dunn.

Removing carbon dioxide to slow climate warming

Carbon management requires limiting carbon emissions and aggressively removing the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. California-based startup Heirloom is bringing to market a solution that will do just that, using investment from the Autodesk Foundation.

Heirloom’s cost-effective, scalable direct air capture removal solution uses natural processes and naturally occurring minerals enhanced with technology and automation. Their solution helps minerals absorb carbon dioxide in days, injecting the captured and processed carbon underground to be monitored and stored for thousands of years. And they can do it for 3-4 times less cost than other solutions. Given the energy required to pull carbon from the atmosphere, Heirloom focuses their installations on or near renewable energy generation sites.

Autodesk software solutions and the Autodesk Foundation’s investment are providing the support Heirloom needs to advance the design, build, and commercialization of its technology. Together, we aim to achieve Heirloom’s mission of removing one gigaton of carbon dioxide by 2035.

Heirloom is investing in low-cost, scalable direct air capture to remove 1 billion metric tons of CO₂ by 2035.

Using generative design to reduce weight from electric cars

With transportation a major contributor to global greenhouse emissions, the push is on to design clean and efficient electric vehicles. Reducing vehicle weight is critical to hitting performance and range targets.

Engineering firm Evolve uses Fusion 360 to design high-quality bespoke systems and solve tough engineering challenges for automotive, aerospace, and clean technologies industries. When the firm experimented with using generative design for an electric hypercar component, engineers found that Fusion 360 let them quickly see different options and choose their priorities. The finished component weighed 40% lighter than when they started and was completed in record time.

Autodesk’s Impact Report shares many more examples of how we’re equipping our customers and other innovators to solve the climate challenge. Please check it out and learn about the industry transformation that is now happening and will allow for the world to go on—with us.

[2] The six industry sectors targeted in the online carbon management survey in May 2020 included architecture, MEP, structural engineering, civil engineering, construction, and facilities. The survey targeted 450 respondents in the United States, from medium-sized companies (250 to 4,999 employees), the majority of whom were carbon management decision-makers.