Mazria: We Must Design Out Carbon Emissions

Seven years ago, architect Ed Mazria started Architecture 2030, which issued the bold 2030 Challenge, asking the global architecture and building community to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“By 2030,” Mazria explained at the 2013 Greenbuild in Philadelphia, “the world will build (and tear down and rebuild) about 900 billion square feet of buildings in cities worldwide.” For perspective, that’s about 3.5 times the amount of area currently taken up by buildings in the U.S.

If all of those buildings are re-built with better standards and benchmarks — if we “design out” carbon emissions — Mazria said green builders can essentially reverse the effects of climate change. To do that, it’s generally believed that we must peak by 2020. Carbon pollution cannot keep increasing past that point, or else catastrophic impacts will soon come.

Why Is “Getting to Carbon Neutral” So Important?

According to leading scientists, our atmosphere can only safely hold 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. At the moment, the world is well over that amount. Burning fossil fuels has become an imminent problem, and if steps aren’t taken soon—in developed and developing countries—we will find ourselves on the path to a severe climate emergency that cannot be reversed.

The other issue is obvious at this point: the world is running out of conventional oil and gas. If the world stays on its current path, the oil and gas reserves will be drained in a matter of decades.

Though the world’s emissions still climb, the United States can boast its lowest emissions since 1994. This is achieved thanks to many, new cleaner technologies. This brings developing countries to light. Countries that will see the biggest growth in the next 50 years such as India or China must put similar goals into place.

How Do Green Builders Get to Carbon Neutral?

“We need a shared vision to mitigate climate risk,” Mazria said. He called for all of the green building professions to stand together to eliminate greenhouse gases (GHG)s and other pollutants and greatly reduce fossil fuel energy consumption.

Landscape architects, planners, architects, and other related professions can get to carbon neutral quite easily if they introduce low-carbon processes from the beginning.

As much as 70-80 percent of emissions can be designed out of a space, and the rest can be counteracted with renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydropower. To help these professions “design out” the emissions, Architecture 2030 presented their new web tool during the presentation: the 2030 Palette.

The 2030 Palette    

“The energy consumption patterns of the built environment are set during the early stages of the design project,” the video explains. “So, architects, planners and designers need the best information to guide their decisions at this stage, and that’s where the 2030 Palette comes in.”

Once you sign up for an account, you are taken to your homepage. Design strategies, called “swatches”, are immediately listed near the top of the page, arranged by contexts or locations. For example, Heat Island Mitigationis listed in the “city/town” area.

Another example, Solar Shading, gives explicit instructions on how far to extend overhangs to produce the best results at different latitudes. If your building falls between 44°L to 56°L, the overhang designed should extend to exactly one half the height of the opening.

Swatches that might be of use to landscape architects include Parks, Urban Bikeways, New Growth Areas, Shared Streets, and many more.

More information and palettes are being added monthly. As the program takes flight, Mazria hopes this will become a one-stop-shop for all of the related design professions to join together to eliminate emissions and bring the built environment to carbon neutral by 2030.

This guest post is by Phil Stamper, ASLA PR and Communications Coordinator.

Image credit: (1) Ed Mazria / Recyecology, (2) Climate Change Statistics / Architecture 2030, (3) Solar Shading at Edward Gonzales Elementary School / 2030 Palette

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