Architecture 2030 Seeks To Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Energy Consumption

Above: Photo: Jamey Stillings Architecture | 22 Sep, 2011 |

Architect Edward Mazria established Architecture 2030, a nonprofit, non-partisan and independent organization, in response to the climate change crisis in 2002.

Architecture 2030’s mission is to rapidly transform the United States and the global-building sector from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution.

Its goal is straightforward: to achieve a dramatic reduction in the climate change causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the building sector by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed and constructed.

Mazria sat down with AZRE Magazine to talk about Architecture 2030:

How can the industry determine if Architecture 2030 is truly having an impact on the environment?

An independent survey taken in the Building Sector in 2010 by the Design Futures Council indicated that Architecture 2030 is the industry leader in moving environmental issues forward in the U.S. Architecture 2030 also looks at sector greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption statistics to gauge the effectiveness of our work. While sector emissions have been dropping in recent years, it’s been very difficult to determine the precise impact of the 2030 targets. What we do know however, is that of the list of 160-plus architecture firms that have signed on to the 2030 Commitment so far, most are making progress toward reducing the energy consumption of their building designs. We are also seeing incorporation of the 2030 Challenge targets into local and state building codes across the U.S. At the federal level, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 was introduced in the U.S. Senate. This bipartisan bill places meeting the 2030 Challenge target of zero-net energy for new buildings by 2030 as the first item in a comprehensive strategy for U.S. energy reductions.

What are the qualifying metrics you use to determine success?

We measure success by the number of building sector firms adopting the 2030 Challenge targets, the number of state and local governments incorporating the targets in their building energy codes, and whether we see a significant statistical level of energy consumption reductions in the building sector annually.

What remains the greatest hurdle in the building industry to successfully meeting and sustaining practices that are good for people and the environment?

Architecture 2030 is working to develop a comprehensive and accessible design language that can be shared among professionals worldwide. Our hope is that this will accelerate the building sector transformation to true sustainability that is already underway. The language is similar in scope to that developed in the 1920s and 1930s that defined and helped establish the modern movement.

What can the industry do to clear that hurdle?

As the industry designs buildings to meet the 2030 Challenge, some of these buildings will exceed, meet or fall short of the targets. As long as we keep at it and continue on an exponential learning curve, we will advance toward our goal of carbon-neutral design by 2030.

Where or how do you see Arizona excelling in sustainable design and building practices? Are we in line with national commitments or exceeding in any areas?

That’s hard for me to gauge, but we know that many firms in Arizona have adopted the 2030 Challenge and are working aggressively to meet its targets. We are now seeing many examples of regional buildings that push the envelope and exceed the 2030 targets. There are quite a number (of Arizona architectural firms) that not only are having a local impact on moving sustainability issues forward, but are having a national impact as well.

How does Architecture 2030 relate to or view the USGBC LEED programs or other such programs? Do they compete or support one another or simply provide different services?

There are various groups and organizations impacting our sector and moving it toward being more environmentally responsible. This includes environmental and building industry groups, as well as a large number of professional and government organizations. Together, we are all kicking the ball down field. Architecture 2030 has collaborated with many of these organizations in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

How is Architecture 2030 changing the way that we live and do business? What will the industry look like in your vision of 2030?

In 2003, the building sector’s role in U.S. and global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions was exposed in a series of articles published in Solar Today and Metropolis Magazine. Prior to that, it was thought the transportation sector — more specifically, SUVs — was the environmental culprit of excessive energy consumption and emissions. Architecture 2030, along with the architecture and design community, was the first to dispel this myth and identify the building sector as the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. This immediately changed the global dialogue on climate change. Between now and 2030, the building sector will transform, and I believe that this transformation will be as dramatic and far reaching as the one that came about because of the industrial revolution.

You recently unveiled Architecture 2030 for Products. What was the motivation for another sustainable program and how is this helping?

The 2030 Challenge has three key areas of focus. In 2006 we issued the 2030 Challenge for buildings; in 2008, the 2030 Challenge for Planning; and this year — on Valentine’s Day as our gift to the planet — we announced the 2030 Challenge for Products. Collectively, the Challenge now covers most everything relating to buildings and emissions, from planning cities and developments to the manufacturing and use of building products.

The 2030 Challenge for Products aims for the global architecture, planning, design, and building community to specify, design, and manufacture products for new developments, buildings and renovations to meet a maximum carbon equivalent footprint of 30% below the product category average through 2014 — increasing this reduction to 35% in 2015, 40% in 2020, 45% in 2025, and 50% by 2030.

While the majority of the sector energy consumption, and its associated emissions, comes from building operations, the embodied energy and emissions of building products are also becoming increasingly significant. Approximately 5% to 8% of total annual U.S. energy consumption and associated emissions is for building products and construction. When including all products for the built environment (infrastructure, furniture, movable equipment, appliances, etc.), the percentage is even greater.

For more information about Architecture 2030, visit

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