Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum
Jennifer (Jen) Wolf is a Research Engineer with the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington supporting the development of tools and methodologies for evaluating embodied carbon. Before joining the CLF, Jen worked for Sustainable Building Partners, a multi-disciplinary consulting firm in the DC-metro area supporting project’s in their green building certification, policy, and code compliance efforts. This work included evaluating, translating, and applying high-performing and high-impact strategies from site design, material impact, energy performance, and health and wellness. She spent her most recent years at SBP working on WBLCAs and working on carbon position statements.
by Jen Wolf
My sense of purpose is rooted in my family, family who have made permanent impressions on my sense of “being” which in turn is translating into the family I am creating. My grandparents are two individuals who have left a lasting impression on my life. I can hear my grandma right now – “make do with what you have”; I can see us right now – picking berries in their huge garden, one that grew so much produce there was no need to buy any of it at the store and only a need to share with others; I can remember it right now – the one itty-bitty grocery bag of garbage they produced a week; I can hear it right now – the joyful conversations and contributions they made to their community. They were quite amazing. And now it is my job to carry on and teach these ideas to my three small children. And although they are still quite young, it puts a smile on my face when they tell people to “turn off the water, you are being wasteful” and “pick up your trash, you could hurt a sea turtle” (we live by the beach).
And, in between all of these moments and time is me. I grew up always inspired by the built environment. I drew too many homes and floor plans out of crayons as a child, took as many architectural and engineering-based classes I could in high school, and then graduated with a bachelors and masters in civil engineering. I always thought I would be an architect or structural engineer, but ended up starting my career in the commercial construction industry. I wanted to be on site and learn “how to build a building”; I wanted to engage with the trades to understand what it took to make design a reality. After a few years laying the groundwork for my career I had the opportunity to work on a sustainable and high-performing high school project which launched my career as a green building consultant.
I spent the next (almost) decade working for a multi-disciplinary consulting firm providing sustainability consulting, building performance and energy modeling, and commissioning services for projects in the DC-metro area. I witnessed and participated in the transformation of the green building market within the area which shifted from green building as an option to a requirement to build. The breadth of energy, interest, commitment, and follow-through by the industry has increased exponentially, while still remaining quite sporadic and diverse. It is an exciting challenge, one I met head on. I was encouraged and satisfied by not only those that unwavered in their commitment to high-performing and low impact buildings throughout the development process but also by those whose hearts and minds I changed throughout the process.
It was about five years ago when I started working on whole building life cycle assessments. Green building rating systems had iterated and a new wave of material and building evaluation metrics had been introduced. I gravitated immediately to WBLCA work finding comfort in the ability to leverage my civil engineering and building construction background and interest in intersecting with whole building energy performance work to understand a building’s total carbon footprint. And, once again, I was propelled forward into a new moment in my career.
I joined the CLF to help support a new wave of urgent transformation of the built environment and building industry. The industry is collectively eager to understand why or how they can have a higher level of impact and the CLF has been and continues to be a huge resource and mechanism for driving change. I hope to support the development of tools and resources that allow the industry to make design and construction decisions that address the urgent climate crisis. I need to, so that the world my kids get to experience is one that they can enjoy and prosper in and not one that leaves them rolling their eyes at me (because, admittedly, I can only handle so many eye rolls from my kids as a parent).