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Credit: Courtesy Architecture 2030

Ed Mazria, Architect and Environmentalist
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Credit: Courtesy Architecture 2030

The 2030 Challenge calls on the architecture, design, and building communities to make all new construction carbon-neutral by the year 2030.

A new understanding and greater awareness of our interaction with the natural environment—and just how significant it is—is helping to open people's eyes to what it means to build responsibly and sustainably. Leading the charge is the founder of Architecture 2030—architect, environmentalist, researcher, and author Edward Mazria, of Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Mazria Inc. Mazria has emerged as a particularly compelling voice in the field of architecture urging design professionals to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in all buildings.

In 2002, while preparing for a seminar on green design, Mazria was reviewing population growth data from the year 2000 and CO2 projections from the 1970s. Comparing those projections with more recent data on population and emissions, he realized that the United States had already reached many of the projected targets. This spurred Mazria to re-examine the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)/Energy Information Administration's (EIA) official statistics on energy use and CO2 emissions by residential and commercial buildings, industry, and transportation. Delving into the data, he isolated transportation and industry activities specific to the production and transport of building materials and reallocated them, along with residential and commercial construction, into a new category designated “Buildings.” The result was Mazria's reapportioned, more accurate division of the EIA's statistics, which illustrated that construction materials and building operations consume 48 percent of the energy produced in the U.S. each year and 48 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming—a revealing wake-up call as to just how significant an impact architecture and construction contribute to the amount of energy use, the production of greenhouse gas emissions, and, ultimately, the effect on climate change. When presented with the numbers, Mazria says, architects were just as surprised as he was.

As a result of his research, and after 35 years of practicing environmental design, in 2005 Mazria established Architecture 2030 (www.architecture2030.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and to providing information and innovative solutions in architecture and planning to address global climate change. His goal is to motivate the architecture, building, and design industries to implement changes in their practices that will have a direct and immediate impact on energy use and emissions. “We know from our research that the building industry is the largest energy-consuming and greenhouse-gas emitting sector; close to double any other sector,” Mazria says. “It's important for us to understand that we a large part of the problem, but we are also a large part of the solution.”

In February 2007, Mazria issued a formal challenge to the architectural community, including students and educators, as well as government officials. He and other noted climate change and design experts hosted the 2010 Imperative Global Emergency Teach-In, an interactive webcast on global warming, climate change, and the built environment. The teach-in detailed actions for reducing human impact on the environment through building, separated into two group-targeted initiatives, the 2010 Imperative and the 2030 Challenge.

The 2010 Imperative challenges accredited design, planning, engineering, and architecture schools to institute ecological literacy in design studio coursework at all levels so that students understand how their actions and designs impact the environment, and, in turn, how the environment can influence their designs. The initiative also prods schools to achieve carbon-neutral campuses by 2010 by implementing sustainable design strategies, generating on-site renewable power, and purchasing renewable energy or certified renewable energy credits. The 2030 Challenge calls on the building sector to reduce emissions in new construction by 10 percent every five years and by 50 percent of regional averages in existing buildings. The goal is for all new construction to be built carbon-neutral by 2030. “When we design something, we set up its emissions pattern for the next 50 years, or however long a building or community stands,” he states.

Mazria's message has already been heard by nearly one-quarter of a million people. Numerous architectural firms, educators, and students internationally, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, individual cities and states, and industry organizations have joined or are actively supporting Architecture 2030's 2010 Imperative and 2030 Challenge by committing to implementing or advocating for the initiatives in their firms, campuses, or municipalities. Last year, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) adopted the 2030 Challenge and in May 2007 joined with Architecture 2030, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), with support from the DOE, to finalize an agreement of understanding that establishes a baseline starting point for energy and emissions reductions with a goal of net-zero-energy buildings.

According to the AIA and Architecture 2030, by 2035 three-quarters of the built environment in the U.S. will be either new or renovated. In addition to the building materials required, these projects will need to be illuminated. Lighting, particularly in commercial spaces, accounts for the largest portion of a building's energy consumption. Designs that incorporate daylighting strategies and efficient use of electric lighting are a critical aspect of reducing energy consumption. To have the greatest possible impact on energy reduction, lighting designers and architects must work closely on each project to develop effective, efficient lighting plans. Lighting needs to be viewed not as a stand-alone element, but as an integrated building system.

The architectural design and building construction sectors have a monumental opportunity to make a historic contribution to resolving a global issue—halting climate change. According to Mazria, as understanding of human impact on climate change deepens, so too does the understanding that it will mandate rapid and drastic energy consumption reductions within the next 23 years. The 2030 Challenge offers a realistic road map for an attainable plan.

Stephani Miller is the associate web editor for ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING magazine's website—archlighting.com. Previously, she covered building products and materials among other topics for the lumber and building materials supply chain through PROSALES Magazine and for custom home builders through CUSTOM HOME Magazine, titles in Hanley Wood's portfolio of design publications.