The Life Cycle Lab within the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington is an interdisciplinary research group focused on conducting the foundational research needed to develop methods to accurately assess and radically reduce the embodied carbon in materials, buildings and infrastructure while optimizing the broader impacts of materials on human, social and ecological health across the full life cycle.

Our group is led by Professor Kate Simonen, AIA, SE and faculty member of the Department of Architecture (CV).

Life Cycle Circle: info graphics of life cycle stages from cradle to grave encircling graphic of earth.

Informing Practice & Policy: Research

Enabling construction practices to quicken
market transformation


Kate (center) and her team at a POD/LCA meeting in Denver

Prof. Simonen has garnered more than $5 million to support her research, policy formation and outreach influencing diverse academic, professional and governmental audiences. Prof. Simonen advises policy makers, businesses and nonprofits in the United States, Canada and Europe on embodied carbon policy and practices. Her influence has impacted EC policies at a range of scales from the adoption of LCA/embodied carbon into CALGreen, the nation’s first mandatory green building standards code, to rapid growth of “Buy Clean” procurement policy at the state level. Her impact extends to updating standards, such as the Concrete Product Category Rule, leading to more than 80,000 new concrete mixes with Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in North America. Currently underway is a multi-year project to develop the second version of the Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment Benchmarking Study that will help set EC standards for buildings.


Enabling Change: Tools & Resources

Empowering design and construction
teams to meet climate goals


Meeting of Embodied Carbon Harmonization & Optimization (ECHO) Project

The Life Cycle Lab is the juggernaut behind multi-party initiatives creating data-driven resources such as the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (the EC3 tool) and AIA educational materials. EC3 is the first free-to-use interactive digital tool designed to navigate the complicated process of selecting low-EC building materials; the database has 33,000 users, averaging 22,500 searches of its database monthly. In 2017, Prof. Simonen with members of the Lab staff developed the embodied carbon components of the AIA Material Matters Curriculum for online and in-person training, followed by the AIA-CLF Carbon Tool Kit for Architects, a three-part free series, in 2021. Additional extensive online resources developed with her staff and collaborators empower action to enable gigaton-scale carbon reduction.


Inspiring Action: Collaboration

Building a proactive, leading-edge network


Carbon Smart Building Day, 2018: Andrew Himes, Prof. Kate Simonen, WA Governor Jay Inslee, Earth Lab’s Ben Packard

On a daily basis, Prof. Simonen and the Life Cycle Lab join forces with a broad range of allied research and action groups including the AIA, Architecture 2030, International Living Future Institute and the U.S. Green Building Council. In 2017, Prof. Simonen led creation of an embodied carbon network to scale up the movement and create a united social infrastructure. This has grown into the CLF Online Community, an international communication platform with more than 4,000 individual users exponentially driving change. Active in integrating embodied carbon into the AIA 2030 Commitment, Prof. Simonen expanded that momentum by challenging other disciplines to take collective action toward rapid emission reductions. The Structural Engineers 2050 Commitment has now been adopted, supported by more than 122 firms, and MEP 2040 has over 80 signatory firms driving action. The Lab’s critical leadership spurs transformation of industry, foments novel materials and births greener policies, all working toward in an architect-driven carbon-smart future.

Awards, Honors, and Recognition

2022 Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Structural Engineers (United Kingdom)

Recognizing Prof. Simonen. The Institution of Structural Engineers has 27,000 members operating in over 100 countries. The Institution upholds standards, shares knowledge, promotes structural engineering and provides a voice for the profession.

2021 AIA Seattle, Community Service Award

Recognizing Prof. Simonen for achievement of significant community service and for exemplifying the application of architectural skills, values and dedication to the advancement of community goals

2021 American Society of Civil Engineers, Charles Pankow Award for Innovation

Recognizing Prof. Simonen’s collaborative work on the EC3 Tool to advance the design and construction industry by introducing innovation into practice

2020 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ASCA) Architectural Education Awards, TAD Research Contribution Award

Recognizing “Benchmarking the Embodied Carbon of Buildings” as the best article from the Technology | Architecture + Designjournal

2020 University of Washington Husky Green Award

Awarding Prof. Simonen’s research linking environmental life cycle assessments to construction methods

2020 Engineering News-Record2019 Top 25 Newsmaker Award

Lauding Prof. Simonen’s climate activism and her steady hand guiding the Carbon Leadership Forum and creating the transformative EC3 Tool for the building industry

2019 University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award nominee

Recognizing Prof. Simonen.

2006 NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) Prize for Integration of Practice and the Academy

$7,000 awarded to the California College of the Arts, Dept. of Architecture. Prof. Simonen was faculty for studios highlighted in the submission.

2004 NCARB Prize for Integration of Practice and the Academy

$7,000 awarded to the California College of the Arts, Dept. of Architecture. Prof. Simonen was principal faculty responsible for curriculum development.


Past Grantmakers

Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

American Institute of Architects: National and Seattle Chapter

Applied Technology Council/FEMA

Bullitt Foundation

Charles Pankow Foundation

ClimateWorks Foundation

College of Built Environments, University of Washington Built Environments Lab

Department of Energy

European Climate Foundation

Naito Foundation,

National Science Foundation

Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality


State of Washington

University of Washington


Washington State Department of Transportation