Total Prize Money


Unlike operational carbon emissions, which can be reduced over time with building energy efficiency renovations and renewable energy, embodied carbon emissions from building materials have irreversibly entered the atmosphere as soon as a building is built. That means the upfront building material choices are critically impactful. And as new construction operations become more efficient, embodied carbon impacts become even more significant. On current trajectories, Architecture 2030 estimates embodied carbon will be responsible for almost half of total new construction emissions between 2020 and 2050.

MassCEC has engaged Built Environment Plus (BE+) to conduct an Embodied Carbon Challenge for actual new construction and major renovation projects in process or built in Massachusetts.

At least 5 prizes will be reserved for Lead Applicants who have not performed Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment (WBLCA) previously.


This timeline is subject to change at BE+’s discretion. View Notice of Interest Form here


Project Requirements

In order for projects to be eligible for prizes projects must meet the following requirements:

  • Be located In Massachusetts.
  • Have over 20,000 square feet of floor area.
  • Be an actual / real project that will be constructed.
  • Projects in Design: Have at least started construction documentation phase of design by March 31, 2024.
  • Projects Completed: Have reached substantial construction completion after June 1, 2023.
  • Can be new construction or major renovation.
  • Must be a whole building.
  • There are no limits on project type or construction type.
  • A project can only be submitted once.
  • Any given project cannot receive more than one award with the exception of the People’s Choice category.
Lead Applicant Requirements

Each project is required to be submitted by a Lead Applicant. The Lead Applicant can be:

  • Any company/person on the Design and/or Construction Team including the Owner.
  • Must have approval from the project Owner and be in coordination with other team members. 
  • It will be up to the discretion of the Lead Applicant how the prize is allocated to other team members.
  • A Lead applicant can submit more than one entry and be on more than one team.
  • A Lead Applicant will only be awarded a prize as the Lead Applicant once. The Lead Applicant can be on an additional winning project as a non-lead applicant team member.
Challenge Participation Requirements
  • Lead Applicants must complete the Notice of Interest form on the Built Environment Plus website.
  • Each Lead Applicant must send at least one employee to at least 3 of the designated related trainings offered by BE+ over the course of the Challenge.  See more information on training opportunities. If you missed the live training watch the video and take the quiz to meet the requirement. 


Judges will score the projects on a scale of 0-100 using the following criteria.

BE+ in collaboration with Brightworks will review all submissions prior to sending to the Judging Panel.

A panel of embodied carbon experts will serve as the judges, review the projects and determine the 2 grand prize winners and other projects to recognize.

BE+ will update this page with the judging panelists.

BE+ will announce the winners at an in-person celebration planned for May 2024. Following the celebration BE+ will issue the prize money to the Lead Applicants on the winning projects.

All prize winners will receive graphic from MassCEC showing recognition level/prize awarded in addition to cash prize.  Graphic  may  be included on company website and  marketing materials.

Submission Requirements 

Submissions Requirements

1. Participation and Awards Submission is FREE.

2. Complete this Notice of Interest Form. Participants who complete this form will receive communication regarding the Challenge, available resources, educational opportunities and more.

3. Participants will submit the following for consideration:

    • Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment Reports for the baseline and proposed / actual building. This is expected to be completed in Tally or One Click LCA unless otherwise approved by Built Environment Plus. See WBLCA requirements below.
    • Carbon Leadership Forum WBLCA Reporting Template for baseline and proposed.
    • A Digital Poster that describes the project and Embodied Carbon reduction strategies. The poster must include a stacked bar chart of the proposed vs. baseline in units GWP/m2 broken down by foundations, structure, enclosure, interiors, site/landscaping, MEP, and FF&E as applicable.
    • Written text giving a project and team overview. Descriptions of how the reduction strategies are replicable and cost effective, innovative both in terms of design process and implementation, and an explanation of the embodied carbon reduction strategies. The Lead Applicant must also attest to having attended at least 3 of the Challenge events.
Requirements for Whole Building Life Cycle Analysis (WBLCA)

Conduct a cradle-to-grave life-cycle assessment of the project’s structure, foundations and enclosure consistent with LEEDv4 Materials and Resources Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction Credit requirements and demonstrate a reduction for Global Warming Potential (GWP) compared to an equivalent baseline building.

The scope of the assessment should include, at a minimum, the following:

Life cycle stages: A1-A3, A4, A5, B4, C1-C4
Physical Scope: Substructure, Superstructure, Exterior Enclosure
Environmental Indicators: Global Warming Potential (GWP)

The baseline and proposed buildings must be of comparable size, function, orientation, and operating energy. The service life of the baseline and proposed buildings must be the same and at least 60 years to consider impacts from replacement and end-of-life. Baseline assumptions must be based on industry standard design and material selection for the project location and building type. The team must use the same life-cycle assessment software tools and data sets to evaluate both the baseline building and the proposed building, and report the Global Warming Potential (GWP) impact category at a minimum. Data sets must be compliant with ISO 14044.

Each applicant’s WBLCA will be reviewed by a third party to ensure appropriate and consistent expectations in terms of embodied carbon calculations and assumptions for judges of the competition.

BE+ will not accept responses past the deadline.


Questions should be directed to BE+ will update this Q&A over the course of the Challenge.


Q: What’s on the Express interest form?
A: You can see the questions here.  

Q: My project is complete and occupied.  We are still working on certification. I already have an LCA complete.  Can we apply for the award?
A: MassCEC’s intent with this program is to influence project design. That’s why the projects need to either be in construction documents OR NOT have been completed prior to June 1, 2023 to be considered for an award. Unfortunately if the project is substantially completed and able to be occupied, then it won’t qualify for an award. 

Q: How does the prize money get distributed across the project team?
A:  The prize money is intended to offset the cost of doing the LCA. How the money is distributed is up to the lead applicant. Each entry is required to have a lead applicant. 

Q: My project is complete and occupied.  We are still working on certifications. I already have an LCA complete.  Can we apply for the award?
A: MassCEC’s intent with this program is to influence project design.  That’s why the projects need to either be in construction documents OR NOT have been completed prior to June 1, 2023 to be considered for an award. Unfortunately, if the project is substantially completed and able to be occupied, then it won’t qualify for an award. 

Q: What is a baseline model and how do I create one?
A: The baseline building must be the same as the proposed design in terms of LCA scope, size, function, orientation, location, and operating energy performance. Typically the baseline building is very similar to the proposed design, only it reflects industry typical conditions or earlier design options that were intentionally studied, and a lower carbon decision was made. There is numerous documentation on creating a baseline building in the following resources:
– LEEDv4 Guidance Reference Guide (page 505)
– ILFI’s Embodied Carbon Guidance (page 4)
– Tally Guides for LEED v4 Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction Credit (link)
– Vancouver City Draft guidance (page 10, link)

Q: How to handle reused conditions in a baseline comparison?
A: Baseline buildings generally include all existing materials as if they were new. Then, proposed designs remove A1-A3 impacts or other phases, as appropriate, for the existing elements. See additional guidance in the following resources:
– ILFI’s Embodied Carbon Guidance (page 4)
– Vancouver City Draft guidance (page 11, link)

Q: How would A5 be included in this?
A: A5 covers emissions from construction and installation. This phase is not required by the competition, but is encouraged.
– The suggested best practice would be to work with the GC to track and enter utility and fuel data from the construction site into the chosen tool, or append a custom calculation as desired.
– In the absence of contractor data, the “Whole Life Carbon Assessment for the Built Environment, RICS Professional Standard, 2nd edition” (link) sections 2 and 4 suggests a process for estimating from typical emissions more coarsely at early project stages.

Note: this phase would be required by projects pursuing ILFI, but not for projects pursuing LEED.

Q: Are there ways to input product-specific EPDs into either of the programs?
First of all, we suggest that benefits from PS-EPDs be accounted for only if the product has been installed (shown through a submittal), or the specifications leave little doubt that the exact product or equivalent will be installed, such as by specifying a Global Warming Potential (GWP) limit for a product that any alternatives would be vetted against.

To get directly to your question, the answer is yes there are ways to input Product Specific EPDs. OneClickLCA can accommodate requests to upload product specific data usually within a few weeks. You can also search by the EPD number or name to see if the EPD is already available in the tool. Note that the LEED US Tool within OneClick will only allow EPD uploads in TRACI format, so EPDs which only report in CML format will not be available in the tool. This is common for products manufactured outside of the US. See the next question for what to do in this situation.

Tally generally does not allow product specific EPDs. Pushing data from Tally into EC3 is the primary way to model product specific data, though the result would no longer be a WBLCA because EC3 lacks the later stages of the life cycle. However, some product changes can be approximated in Tally without using product specific EPDs, such as applying a custom concrete mix using information from a submittal. Tally is better suited to compare designs and materials, and is limited on the products side.

Q: Given different standards between USA and Europe, can you use a European EPD?
A: This can be a challenge. The key difference is that the characterization methods are different (TRACI in US v. CML internationally). While some EPDs report in both methods, many do not. If you want to include an EPD in the OneClick LEED US Tool (TRACI method) for a product, we suggest that you reach out to the manufacturer and advocate that they publish an EPD that reflects the impacts in both formats (TRACI and CML). Otherwise we suggest you provide a post processing calculation showing the Global Warming Potential (GWP) impact reduction you expect, and the reviewers could take that into consideration.

Q: How should I approach modeling concrete mixes?
A: In the baseline buildings in both tools we suggest using NRMCA typical mix designs with appropriate regional assumptions for Supplementary Cementitious Materials (SCMs).

For proposed buildings we suggest:
– In Tally, use NRMCA mixes as a proxy to show specification requirements for a GWP limit or a higher SCM replacement target. Or, if actual submittal data is available, use the custom concrete mix function. ZGF’s tool (link) is a highly complementary way to explore concrete mix designs alongside Tally.
– In OneClick, use NRMCA mixes as a proxy to show specification requirements for a GWP limit or a higher SCM replacement target. Better yet, require Product Specific EPDs and include those product specific EPDs in the proposed design model.


About MassCEC

MassCEC is a state economic development agency dedicated to accelerating the growth of the clean energy sector across the Commonwealth to spur job creation, deliver statewide environmental benefits and to secure long-term economic growth for the people of Massachusetts. MassCEC works to increase the adoption of clean energy while driving down costs and delivering financial, environmental, and economic development benefits to energy users and utility customers across the state.

MassCEC’s mission is to accelerate the clean energy and climate solution innovation that is critical to meeting the Commonwealth’s climate goals, advancing Massachusetts’ position as an international climate leader while growing the state’s clean energy economy. MassCEC is committed to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization where everyone is welcomed, supported, respected, and valued. We are committed to incorporating principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and environmental justice in all aspects of our work in order to promote the equitable distribution of the health and economic benefits of clean energy and support a diverse and inclusive clean energy industry. MassCEC strives to lead and innovate in equitable clean energy and climate solutions.

Fine Print

This Solicitation does not commit BE+ or MassCEC to award any funds, pay any costs incurred in preparing an application, or procure or contract for services or supplies. BE+ reserves the right to accept or reject any or all applications received, waive minor irregularities in submittal requirements, modify the anticipated timeline, request modification of the application, negotiate with all qualified Applicants, cancel or modify the Solicitation in part or in its entirety, or change the application guidelines, when it is in its best interests.

This Solicitation has been distributed electronically using BE+’s website. It is the responsibility of Applicants to check the website for any addenda or modifications to a Solicitation to which they intend to respond. BE+ accepts no liability and will provide no accommodation to Applicants who submit an application based on an out-of-date Solicitation document.