The processes of building material extraction, manufacturing, transportation and construction are ALL responsible for carbon emissions. So, how do you compare these embodied costs to make the best choices around which materials to use? How do you know whether it’s better for the environment to retrofit an existing building or build a new, passive one? How do you determine whether a building truly qualifies as zero-carbon? The primary tool we use to measure environmental impact is the life cycle assessment.
Kate Simonen is a carbon accounting expert and professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. As a licensed architect and structural engineer, she has an extensive background in high-performance building systems, seismic design and retrofitting, and net-zero energy construction. Kate’s research is focused on environmental life cycle assessment and innovative construction materials and methods. She is also the founding director of the Carbon Leadership Forum, a research effort focused on advancing low-carbon construction.
Today, Kate joins Ross and Christophe to share the ins and outs of life cycle assessments, or LCAs. She explains how to draw systems boundaries in a useful way and describes what makes for a good versus bad LCA. Kate walks us through the stages of building, discussing how LCAs can be applied in each phase and sharing the CLF’s aim to increase awareness around why material choices matter. Listen in for Kate’s insight on the trend toward green building, the opportunities for storing carbon in the built-environment, and the three ways you can get involved in the life cycle assessment space!
Connect with Ross & Christophe
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[1:39] Kate’s path to reversing climate change
[4:06] How to draw systems boundaries in a useful way
[7:17] How LCAs are applied in the stages of a building
[12:35] The rise of construction in the developing world
[17:53] The practical uses of LCAs
[20:47] What constitutes a good LCA
[25:48] The use case for the EC3 Calculator
[28:57] The trend toward green building in architecture/engineering
[32:40] The opportunities for storing carbon in the built environment
[34:04] Why wood is making a comeback
[36:58] Kate’s insight around forest management
[38:11] How to get involved in the LCA space