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Carb talk: CBE’s Climate Solutions Community of Practice sparks interdisciplinary collaborations

Is there a way to break through knowledge barriers and foster climate change collaboration within and without CBE? Professor Kate Simonen and other faculty think they’ve found it: CBE’s new Climate Solutions Community of Practice (CoP), a group dedicated to generating climate solutions across disciplinary frameworks that encourages student, staff, and faculty participation.

Building a more just and beautiful future: CBE’s new faculty cohort makes strides on campus

The College of Built Environments at the University of Washington has big dreams. Faculty, staff, and students are tackling issues of social and environmental justice and climate change. They’re seeking out innovations in sustainability, breaking out of disciplinary silos, and forging new collaborations

Youth Perspectives on Disaster Planning project wins Population Health Initiative grant

Among the awarded projects was “Incorporating Youth Perspectives to Improve Disaster Planning: Piloting Drone-Based Photovoice to Explore Cultural Assets” whose investigators include UDP Associate Professor Daniel Abramson and UDP Masters’ student Matias Korfmacher, in collaboration with researchers from DEOHS.

Don’t take concrete for granite: the secret research life of CBE Department of Construction Management Assistant Professor and concrete materials researcher Fred Aguayo

Concrete can sequester carbon, and the cement that glues its components together has been used since antiquity. Now, CBE professor Fred Aguayo is introducing students to the complex world of concrete research.

Urban@UW Announces the 2023 Research to Action Collaboratory Inaugural Cohort

Urban@UW is excited to announce the project teams selected for the inaugural cohort of the Research to Action Collaboratory (RAC). Throughout the next 18 months, Urban@UW will work with these teams and provide seed funds, dedicated time to build team cohesion and collaboration skills, and foster opportunities for peer support and shared resources and learning.

$2 million award from National Science Foundation will support team to develop 3D printed microorganisms for sustainable construction materials

An interdisciplinary research team, including University of Washington Associate Professor of Architecture Gundula Proksch, received $2 million in funding from the National Science Foundation’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program. The funding will be used to combine engineered microorganisms with 3D printing to create materials for sustainable built environments.

Urban@UW launches the Research to Action Collaboratory, with initial funding from the Bullitt Foundation, to help collaborations achieve greater impact

The Research to Action Collaboratory (RAC), seeded by a catalytic $500,000 grant from the Bullitt Foundation, will bring together teams of UW scholars and community partners and support them with seed funds, intensive workshops to build team cohesion and collaboration skills, and peer support through the project cycles.

College of Built Environments’ unique Inspire Fund aims to foster research momentum in underfunded pursuits college-wide. And it’s working.

In January 2021, the College of Built Environments launched its new Inspire Fund to “inspire” CBE research activities that are often underfunded, but for which a relatively small amount of support can be transformative. The fund aims to support research where arts and humanities disciplines are centered, and community partners are engaged in substantive ways.

ZGF Architects Builds a Transparent and Inclusive Timber Assessment Tool

Upstream, a winner of Metropolis’ inaugural Responsible Disruptors competition, is an open-source calculator that designers with a comprehensive view of the carbon impacts of their wood-based materials choices. Upstream was created in partnership with the College of Built Environments Applied Research Consortium and led by CBE student, Chuou Zhang. | Metropolis

Entombed in the Landscape: Waste with Assistant Professor Catherine De Almeida

Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Catherine De Almeida remembers picking up trash on the playground, seeing people throw trash out their car window, and noticing trash flying around while she played outside as a child. The presence of litter in landscapes upset her so much that she would spend her elementary school recesses picking up trash.

The Carbon Leadership Forum, in partnership with more than 30 industry leaders, announces breakthrough tool to easily evaluate carbon emissions of building materials

As the world builds the equivalent of an entire New York City every month, reducing the carbon emissions of materials is an imperative.

The Carbon Leadership Forum, in partnership with a coalition of more than 30 forward looking and innovative building industry leaders announce that they have taken on a long-elusive goal – measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of building materials. The result is the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (“EC3”) tool, an open source tool for architects, engineers, owners, construction companies, building material suppliers and policy makers to compare and reduce embodied carbon emissions from construction materials.

Between now and 2060 the world’s population will be doubling the amount of building floorspace, equivalent to building an entire New York City every month for 40 years. Most of the carbon footprint of these new buildings will take the form of embodied carbon — the emissions associated with building material manufacturing and construction. As a result, owners, designers, engineers and contractors are turning their attention to building materials and seeking information on these products so they can make informed, smart choices. This task has been fraught with problems – from the lack of data to data too complex to evaluate.

In response to this problem, Skanska USA and C Change Labs conceived of a solution that would enable the building industry to easily access and view material carbon emissions data, allowing them to make carbon smart choices during material specification and procurement. Initial development was jointly funded by Skanska and Microsoft, who determined that an open platform would provide maximum impact for the industry and society at large. To accelerate development of this solution, the Carbon Leadership Forum incubated the project with strong leadership and additional financial support from Autodesk, Interface, the MKA Foundation and the Charles Pankow Foundation, lead sponsor and grant manager. Subsequently, more than 30 other industry-leaders joined in.

“Our mission is to accelerate the transformation of the building sector to radically reduce embodied carbon,” said Kate Simonen, director of the Carbon Leadership Forum and professor in the College of the Built Environments at the University of Washington. “The EC3 tool is a great example of what can happen when our passionate and collaborative network comes together around a need.”

Industry sponsors include: Grant Administrator: Charles Pankow Foundation; Pilot Partners: Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Microsoft Corporation,
Perkins and Will, Port of Seattle, Skanska USA, Walter P Moore and Associates, Inc., and Webcor; Association Partners: American Concrete Institute (ACI) Foundation, American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and the BlueGreen Alliance; and Material Partners: Armstrong Ceiling and Wall Solutions, BASF Corporation, CarbonCure Technologies, Interface, Inc., Kingspan Group, and USG Corporation.

Additional support is provided by Technology Partners including Autodesk, Climate Earth, Sustainable Minds and Tally; EC3 Tool Methodology Partners: Arup, Brightworks Sustainability, Central Concrete Supply Co., Inc., Climate Earth, Katerra, KieranTimberlake, LeMessurierr, LMN Architects, National Ready Mixed Concrete Co., Owens Corning, Thornton Tomasetti, Urban Fabrick, WAP Sustainability and WRNS Studio. View the full list of collaborators at www.carbonleadershipforum.org.

The EC3 Tool: A Closer Look

Increasingly the building industry and owners are becoming aware that materials matter and are seeking ways to evaluate the emissions associated with making these materials, but they have not had a reliable or efficient way to compare them. As a result, while awareness and a desire to enact change have been high, few have found an avenue to effectively examine and evaluate the available material choices. The EC3 tool, an open-source tool, simplifies this complex problem and will allow users to easily see the embodied carbon impacts of the materials before consumption. Now users will have the information they need to make more informed decisions on embodied carbon, allowing them to enact positive change. Details on the EC3 tool will be made available November 2019. Collaborating partners will be demonstrating the product at Greenbuild, November 19-22, 2019 at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA.

Learn more

For more information on the Carbon Leadership Forum and the EC3 tool, including links to our partners’ announcements visit www.carbonleadershipforum.org
Visit www.buildingtransparency.org and register to have access to the EC3 tool. The tool will be released November 19, 2019.
List of all collaborators, including spokespersons, media contacts and quotes, available upon request.

Additional embodied carbon resources:

About the Carbon Leadership Forum

The Carbon Leadership Forum, built on a collective impact model, has amassed the largest network of architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers, policy makers and academics to reduce the carbon impact of materials in buildings. Together, we have developed an extensive body of research and resources necessary to inform and empower our members, while building a robust collaborative network – the Embodied Carbon Network – that is inspiring and connecting our members to enact change. This has resulted in member-led initiatives, including the recent structural engineers embodied carbon challenge (SE 2050) and the development of the EC3 Tool. For more information visit: www.carbonleadershipforum.org.

Contacts

Kate Simonen
Director, Carbon Leadership Forum
ksimonen@uw.edu

Anne Banta
Media Contact, Carbon Leadership Forum
anne@banta.org

Download the PDF
Press Release announcing EC3 tool – Sept. 23, 2019.pdf

‘Carbon accountability’: UW architecture professor Kate Simonen sees progress in work to reduce embodied carbon in construction materials

 UW News

“We acknowledge that we hold this world in trust and recognize the immediate threat climate change and its impacts pose to current and future generations,” reads a statement signed this fall by more than 100 construction-related companies and nonprofits.

Kate Simonen, UW professor of architecture and head of the Carbon Leadership Forum

Kate Simonen

“We must act urgently and collaboratively to transform the built environment from a leading driver of climate change to a significant and profitable solution.”

Such strong words of industry agreement are good news to Kate Simonen, architect, engineer and University of Washington associate professor of architecture. Simonen leads a UW-hosted research group called the Carbon Leadership Forum that brings together academics and building industry professionals to study carbon emissions across a building’s life cycle, or entire period of use, and to focus on reducing the amount of “embodied” carbon in building materials.

The statement comes from a declaration that was shared and signed at an event called Carbon Smart Building Day, linked with the three-day Global Climate Action Summit in September in San Francisco.

“Together, we can help draw down excess atmospheric carbon,” reads this Carbon Smart Building Declaration, “and create a built environment that supports a healthy, equitable, and sustainable human community.”

Carbon emissions from the built environment account for more than 40 percent of greenhouse gases worldwide, and must be dramatically reduced to combat the effects of climate change. Simonen says that construction of a single “low embodied carbon” office building could save 30 million kilograms, or 33,000 tons, in carbon emissions, Simonen says — “the emissions equivalent of avoiding driving a car around the Earth 3,000 times.”

Exciting, too, Simonen said, is a new, open-source tool to track the carbon emissions of raw building materials called the Embodied Carbon Calculator for Construction, or EC3 for short. The tool, developed by the Carbon Leadership Forum in collaboration with Skanska and Amsterdam-based C-Change Labs, can help construction professionals better report and reduce embodied carbon. No less an ally than Microsoft announced in September that it will pilot the calculator as the corporation remodels its campus. Funding for this has been provided by the Charles Pankow Foundation, the MKA Foundation and other building industry supporters such as carpet manufacturer Interface and the American Institute of Steel Construction.

The Carbon Leadership Forum is now an affiliate of EarthLab, a new institute at the UW seeking to connect academics with people working on these environmental challenges and translate science into practical solutions.

Simonen said she was encouraged by a standing-room-only audience for Carbon Smart Building Day, the new calculator tool and the fact that so many have signed the Carbon Smart Building Declaration.

“What this means,” she said, “is we are approaching global consensus on the challenge ahead and exciting momentum on where to act to increase impact.”

Simonen added that the Carbon Leadership Forum continues to work with industry and NGO partners to build awareness of embodied carbon in construction. Another ongoing initiative, she said, is the Embodied Carbon Network, a platform for engagement and information to help achieve the aim of a carbon-neutral built environment by the year 2050.

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For more information, contact Simonen at 206-685-7282 or ksimonen@uw.edu.


Read more about embodied carbon and the Carbon Leadership Forum: