Jan 16, 2020

ENR Top 25 Newsmakers: "Kate Simonen: Climate Activist Has Rallied Industry to Reduce Embodied Carbon"

Kate Simonen, founder of the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington

It has been a banner year for Kate Simonen and her burgeoning band of embodied carbon busters, bent on reducing the negative environmental impacts of building production. On Nov. 19, Simonen and her EC-reduction champions debuted the first free-to-use digital tool to calculate EC in materials. The same day, Marin County, Calif., approved the nation’s first low-carbon concrete building code. And after a slow start in 2017, the free-to-join Embodied Carbon Network finally gained traction.

As founding director of the decade-old Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) at the University of Washington, Simonen has been stirring all three pots. “Kate is our figurehead,” says Wil V. Srubar, a professor of engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and an ECN co-chair with Simonen and Erin McDade, senior program director of Architecture 2030. “It’s been a wild ride the last 12 months, and Kate has been a great driver,” he adds.

kate's chart

EC, the sum total of greenhouse gases emitted from material extraction to the jobsite, “is an entry point to acknowledge that we need to completely decarbonize” the buildings sector—not just operational carbon, says engineer-architect-researcher Simonen, also a professor in the university’s department of architecture.
Perhaps Simonen’s biggest EC-reduction coup is the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator. “EC3 is transformative,” says Ari Frankel, assistant vice president at Alexandria Real Estate Equities, one of six developers piloting EC3.

CLF incubated EC3 through a $713,000 grant from the Charles Pankow Foundation and other sponsors. Simonen is lead investigator, with teammates Phil Northcott, Change Labs CEO; Stacy Smedley, a director of sustainability for Skanska USA; and Don Davies, president of Magnusson Klemencic Associates.

While incubating EC3, Simonen also helped create Marin County’s low-carbon concrete code—spearheaded by Top 25 Newsmaker Bruce King (see p. 47)—by leading its steering committee. She was “instrumental” in creating consensus among diverse stakeholders, says Alice Zanmiller, a planner for Marin County’s sustainability team.

 

Latest News

Introducing Megan Kalsman

Policy Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forumby Megan Kalsman I have always been drawn to and fascinated by cities. How we work, play, and move about...

Introducing Meghan Byrne

Engagement and Communications Lead, Carbon Leadership Forum Meghan Byrne works to support collaboration and communication across the CLF Community...

Introducing Milad Ashtiani

Building and Materials Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum, University of Washington Milad Ashtiani is a civil engineer and PhD candidate at the...

Decarbonizing Design Resource

By Melissa MorancyDirector, Sustainable Knowledge & Engagement, American Institute of Architects (AIA) In 2015, I worked with AIA’s Historic...

2022 Embodied Carbon Policy Action

by Meghan LewisSenior Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum 2021 was a busy year for embodied carbon policy, and 2022 looks to be filled with even...

Ground-breaking CLF Materials Report

October 27, 2021 Today the Carbon Leadership Forum released a ground-breaking report on the potential for meaningful climate impact through...

Introducing Brad Benke

Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum, University of Washington Brad Benke, AIA, is a Research Scientist at the Carbon Leadership Forum focused on...

Act together to change the world

by Edward Mazria Architecture 2030 is calling on all architects, engineers, planners, and individuals involved in the building sector worldwide to...

Six Months into SE 2050

Structural Engineers Combine to Share Learning, Resources, and Ambitious Decarbonization Goals By Chris Jeseritz Chris Jeseritz is a project manager...

US Government targets Embodied Carbon

The Green Building Advisory Committee’s adoption of procurement principles will drive federal action on low government embodied carbon building...

Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront

The World Green Building Council’s pioneering report "Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront: Coordinated action for the building and construction sector...

Embodied Carbon in Construction

Published in Buildings & Cities in the Special Collection: "Carbon metrics for buildings and cities" Publication date: September 2020 Authors:...

Carbon Positive RESET!

There has never been a greater urgency for climate action. by Ed Mazria and Natasha BalwitArchitecture 2030 We are in a race to find solutions for...

en_USEnglish