March 2020

Stubborn optimism...change is possible!

Last week I attended Carbon Positive in Los Angeles, a conference hosted by Architecture 2030 and Architect Magazine, focused on the need for rapid and dramatic carbon reductions in global built environments. Over 300 key leaders from across our industry met for powerful presentations and intense discussions.

Ed Mazria set the stage with powerful statistics emphasizing the need to reduce emissions by over 50% in the next decade. I had a lot of fun kicking off the first day talking about the power of networks to empower change if we bring stubborn optimism and actively collaborate using our technical excellence. We can design and build the future we choose! I choose climate solutions for a healthy, equitable, regenerative planet: THIS is the decade, WE are the generation, and change IS possible. Building can be a key climate solution!

Maybe the greatest value of Carbon Positive was the thousands of new connections and conversations in hallways, elevators, and meeting rooms, bringing to life partnerships, explorations, and collaborations. Almost every speaker encouraged us to build on those connections, with designers talking to clients, customers talking to suppliers, individuals talking to their co-workers, peers talking to peers across organizational lines. Reducing upfront carbon is a big complex challenge – some have called it a “wicked problem” – and progress demands new ways of working together.

I returned to Seattle both humbled by the scale of our mission and revitalized by our potential to change the world. As Farhana Yamin emphasized in her inspiring closing keynote, we are the leaders we’ve been looking for! I encourage all of you to start today-talk about carbon positive solutions with your clients, consultants, family and friends.

Warm wishes, 

NPR's Science Friday  
Kate Simonen on National Public Radio
Interviewed by host Ira Flatow
The Mjøstårnet building in Norway
World’s tallest timber building

Science Friday's Ira Flatow keys in on upfront carbon

In order to slow a warming planet, nearly every industry will be forced to adapt: airlines, fashion, and even the unglamorous and often overlooked building materials sector. Just like the farm to table movement, consumers are increasingly thinking about where the raw materials for their homes and cities come from, and how they impact climate change. We hear from architect and structural engineer Kate Simonen of the University of Washington about the need for more sustainable building materials to construct homes for an estimated 2.3 billion more people by the year 2050. Martin Pei, Chief Technology Officer of European steel company SSAB, and Jeremy Gregory, Director of the Concrete Sustainability Hub at MIT, talk about how the traditional building materials sector is going green.

Learn More


By The Numbers  
2020-2050: Total Carbon Emissions
from Global New Construction

We're on a trajectory to radically increase the carbon footprint of new buildings even as we work to make buildings far more energy-efficient.
Growing Significance of Embodied Carbon
Between now and 2050 the world's population will double building floorspace, locking embodied carbon emissions in place for the lifespan of those buildings.
Embodied Carbon in Buildings
Facts and Figures
Learn More


Member Impact  

Amy Hatten
Corporate Responsibility Officer
Thornton Tomasetti

Bruce King
Primary author
The New Carbon Architecture


Victoria Herrero-Garcia
Ambient Energy

Wolfgang Werner  Presedent & CEO, Urban Fabrick

Find out what steps our members are taking to address embodied carbon
Learn More
Inspiring Action  

Massachusetts Teens Take the Lead on Embodied Carbon

By Charlie Pound, 8th Grader in Waring Massachusetts

The Waring School’s Brickwolves Robotics Team developed a Student Carbon Calculator Curriculum to empower students with information about embodied carbon. Eight students, 14 and 15 years old, attended the Boston Climate Strike last September to demand climate action along with thousands of their peers. "The speakers focused on classic images of climate change: inefficient transportation and big factories, while in reality, those aren’t the biggest contributors to climate change” said team member Olive Sauder. For example, creating and operating buildings is responsible for 40% of all annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, but the speakers at the climate strike did not mention it.

This is the story of teenagers who decided that the education of every student should provide resources and understanding needed to take action on embodied carbon.     


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This month’s action checklist

Sign up for the March 20 network webinar – “Embodied Carbon 101” --- 9:00 AM PST
Register to attend Living Future 20 Conference & Expo presented by International Living Future Institute. May 5-8, Seattle.
Check out Carbon Leadership Forum News with comprehensive coverage of the movement to reduce embodied carbon.

About the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington

Who We Are

  • The Carbon Leadership Forum accelerates transformation of the building sector to radically reduce the embodied carbon in building materials and construction.
  • We pioneer research, create resources, foster cross-sector collaboration, and incubate member-led initiatives to bring embodied carbon emissions of buildings down to zero.
  • We are architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers, building owners, and policymakers who care about the future and take bold steps to eliminate embodied carbon from buildings and infrastructure.


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