Intern, Carbon Leadership Forum
Clare is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in engineering at the University of Washington, with the intention of exploring the intersectionality between environment, society, and the built environment. Her work with the CLF complements her goals of bringing humanity to address social justice issues and working to help both local and global communities.
by Clare Kondrat
My first step towards learning how to make a difference in the built environment started in the natural one. Washington has been home for me my whole life, both in the sense that I live there and that I find comfort in its beauty. My childhood is full of memories of making mud pies during downpours, climbing trees, and cartwheeling in the summer sun with my five younger siblings. I probably spent more time in our backyard growing up than inside.
As I continued through school, that love for Washington grew alongside a fascination for learning about nature. Learning about global warming, and the dystopian future that could threaten our world’s complex and beautiful ecological systems, helped me identify climate change as a problem with immense stakes that I had the passion and opportunities to pursue. Before this year, however, I thought those solutions mainly revolved around priorities such as improving clean energy, encouraging public transportation, and protecting our natural resources. As I narrowed my focus down to civil engineering as a possible career, I was unsure how my love for my environment would apply to infrastructure.
Discovering the CLF internship over the summer of 2022 was the connection I needed. I knew nothing about embodied carbon before that, or much about buildings at all, but I wanted to learn. It seems so intuitive to also make efforts toward reducing climate change emissions from the built environment sector, yet through our explorations I’ve realized that it’s harder than I thought. It’s easy to forget about all the emissions that come from actually making buildings, but hard to quantify them in a tidy way and act to reduce them. There is so much opportunity for innovation because the concept of embodied carbon itself is relatively new.
I particularly love the example of the development of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool. As sustainability became a bigger priority for many architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms (among others) over the past decade, people recognized the need to calculate carbon emissions for building materials easily, but there was no such tool yet because the sector was so new! The current data was hard to access or simply didn’t exist, so multiple industry leaders teamed together, conceptualized a database and calculator, and developed it into a useful tool. The EC3 tool’s development symbolizes the future of the embodied carbon sector for me: constantly evolving and responding promptly to identified needs. That potential excites me!
With the mentorship of Professor Kate Simonen, alongside my fellow interns at the University of Washington, I can’t wait to continue to explore applications of engineering to the causes I care most about. The opportunity to intern at the CLF has been one of the most influential parts of my first year of college. I already find it difficult to look at buildings around me in the same way I did before my internship. Our foundation of knowledge in Life Cycle Assessment practices, circularity, and basic embodied carbon principles gives us our own toolkit to join CLF’s agents of change attacking the climate crisis. I hope to continue to work both with the natural and the built environment to ensure that communities worldwide will flourish for years to come, both in infrastructure and ecological beauty.