Register now!

This program is the third in the Materials Matter series of five continuing education sessions. Click here to return to the full series overview.

Tools of the Trade: Assessment + Implementation

Embodied carbon calculation in practice, guidelines for specs, and perspectives from practice on net zero energy + carbon

Session 3 builds on the knowledge gained during the first two sessions by diving into tools used to communicate environmental and embodied carbon impacts of materials. It includes demonstrations of key carbon calculation tools and context for determining the right tool to use in practice. The first half focuses on applying life-cycle assessment and carbon calculation, and the second half demonstrates the AIA Toolkit for Resources, strategies for selecting and specifying materials, and provides a practice perspective on combining Passive-level energy performance and a low embodied carbon footprint.

Date and time

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
10:00 am to 3:00 pm – break from 12 to 1:00

Continuing education

4.0 HSW LU Hours
4.0 GBCI credits applied for

Learning objectives

  1. Explain Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) guidelines and how LCA can be used to shape building design to reduce environmental impact.
  2. Participants will be able to draw upon resources and tools used to implement LCA in order to make evidence-based decisions on building materials.
  3. Explain the differences among tools, including databases, labels, certifications and others, used for screening products, assessing their impact, and disclosing their ingredients.
  4. Identify the appropriate health tool to use on a project and the key information needed to select healthy sustainable materials.


Carly Coulson, AIA
Architect Carly Coulson integrates the diverse disciplines that combine to make contemporary building into beautiful, humane, and sustainable environments. She is the design principal and founder of the architecture firm COULSON. Carly was recognized with an AIA COTE Top Ten Green Building Award for the Bagley Classroom, the first LEED Platinum and passive house building at the University of Minnesota. COULSON is an AIA 2030 Signatory Firm with all projects meeting the 2030 Challenge and a firm portfolio average of 98% pEUI. This high performance is invisible, without impact on poetry of place and design excellence. It is accomplished with simple low-tech components and passive strategies with innovation in energy modeling and integrated design. 

Traci Engel Lesneski, Assoc. AIA
Traci Engel Lesneski is CEO and principal with Minneapolis-based MSR Design. Traci brings an integrated, inclusive approach to design leadership. Her work, which has received numerous national awards, places co-equal value on human wellbeing, building performance, aesthetics, and delight. Recent building projects Traci has led include the award-winning VCAM building, a 24/7 visual culture, arts, and media creative hub for Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and Missoula’s new library and culture house. Traci regularly writes articles about design and lectures nationally and internationally about the built environment’s role in fostering well-being, promoting learning, and creating inclusive, resilient, and cohesive communities.

Meghan Lewis
Meghan Lewis is a senior researcher at the Carbon Leadership Forum, where she leads research on procurement of low carbon materials and how public and private embodied carbon policy can support the rapid decarbonization of building materials and construction. Previous to joining the CLF, Meghan was the head of global energy & sustainability at WeWork, where she also launched the Supply Chain Sustainability program in 2018. Meghan gained her architecture license while practicing at Mithun, where she worked on a range of project types and spearheaded internal efforts to integrate LCA and low carbon material selection into the design process.

Jill Maltby-Abbott, AIA
Jill is a Senior Associate and WELL-accredited professional at DLR Group. Primarily focusing on projects in the workplace and retail/mixed use studios, Jill brings her passion for human health and wellbeing across DLR Group’s integrated design disciplines. She is a steward of well-considered material selection and advocate for the use of carbon-conscious products that balance building performance standards with environmental and human health requirements. As a self-proclaimed materials enthusiast, Jill believes bringing the culture of transparency and evidence will continue to elevate why great design is critical for buildings and beyond.

Kate Simonen, AIA
Kate Simonen is the executive director of the Carbon Leadership Forum and professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. Connecting significant professional experience in high-performance building design and technical expertise in environmental life cycle assessment, she works to spur collective action to bring net embodied carbon to zero through cutting-edge research, cross-sector collaboration, and the incubation of new approaches. Kate directs the research of the Carbon Leadership Forum and convenes collaborative initiatives such as the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (the EC3 tool) and the Structural Engineers 2050 Challenge.

Elizabeth Turner, AIA
Elizabeth is an architect with a passion for finding synergies to create thriving, equitable communities that depend less on the purchase of energy, saving both operational costs and carbon emissions. She founded Precipitate in 2017 to explore emerging methods of holistically integrated design at the intersection of architecture, research, and education. She is a Certified Passive House Consultant through the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) and teaches the capstone project class for the Sustainability Studies minor at the University of Minnesota, connecting students in support of communities. Elizabeth is a 2020 recipient of the Energy News Network’s 40 under 40 recognizing her leadership in the transition to a clean energy economy.

Tate Walker, AIA
Tate Walker is the Director of Sustainability at OPN Architects and leads projects and initiatives across the firm. His experience is rooted in the architectural design process, but includes program and project management, and the development of technical guidelines for high performing buildings. He has served many organizations, including cities and universities, AIA’s Committee on the Environment, AIA’s 2030 Commitment, and the USGBC’s Energy & Atmosphere Technical Advisory Group. In 2018, Tate was a lead author of the COTE Toolkit, which assembles best practices, exemplary projects, metrics, and research to support the design of beautiful, high performing buildings. In 2019, AIA adopted the toolkit as the Framework for Design Excellence for the entire membership, to support a healthy, zero carbon, equitable, resilient future.

Erica Weeks, AIA
Erica Weeks is Associate Principal and Director of Sustainability at Hastings Architecture in Nashville, Tennessee. She earned her first LEED AP credential in 2006 and has facilitated the sustainability process on over 200 projects, under the array of available rating systems. Erica has a keen ability to create synergies between disciplines, execute the calculations required to forward ideas, and provide project-based mentorship to design professionals, with the overall goals of making sustainability inherent to the design/construction process and fostering the education of the next generation of design professionals. In October 2020, Erica was named a “Shero” in Courage by the US Green Building Council, for continuing to challenge the ‘business-as-usual’ thinking of the design and construction industry to make sustainability an embedded priority.

Eric Borchers is a structural engineer with Meyer Borgman Johnson, where his recent projects include The Fillmore Minneapolis and the Eleven on the River condominiums. He is a member of the ASCE-SEI Sustainability Committee and the SE 2050 Subcommittee, which seeks to understand, reduce, and ultimately eliminate embodied carbon in structures. Eric leads Meyer Borgman Johnson’s participation as a signatory firm of the SE 2050 Commitment Program and its firmwide efforts to measure and reduce embodied carbon on projects. He is committed to expanding the use of life cycle assessment and promoting a complete view of carbon accounting.

Justin Schwartzhoff is an architect with LMN Architects and the firm’s embodied carbon lead. He currently heads LMN’s Embodied Carbon and Mass Timber applied research group, which develops tools and strategies for reducing the firm’s total carbon emissions. This work has led to the implementation of whole building LCAs across all firm projects, to the development of an internal database tracking embodied carbon hotspots, and to the inclusion of embodied carbon studies into design and cost studies. He is also a leading member of the Seattle-area Carbon Leadership Forum hub and the CLF-Seattle Embodied Carbon Analysis User Group.


Contact Deanna Christiansen, Continuing Education Director

Click here to return to the full series overview.