Ed Mazria is the influential environmental architect behind the 2030 Challenge, which aims to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in new construction, and to cut the use of fossil fuels in existing buildings by 50 percent before 2030. To help hit those targets, he has just publicly launched a unique new initiative called the 2030 Palette—a robust, visually oriented, online design tool that strives to help design low-impact, people friendly built environments from buildings to cities. We visited Mazria’s offices in Santa Fe, where we spoke with him in-depth about the new website, his work, and how sustainable development can save us from the worst climate change has to offer.
INHABITAT: Can you tell us about your latest initiative the 2030 Palette?
Mazria: Absolutely. The 2030 Palette is an interactive online tool that puts the principles behind low-carbon and resilient built environments at the fingertips of architects, planners and designers worldwide.
Why is the 2030 Palette important? Our world is going to be redesigned, reshaped, and rebuilt over the next twenty years – affecting over 900 billion square feet of construction. That’s an area equal to 3.5 times the entire built environment of the U.S. today. How we plan and design the built environment from here on out will determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic.
The 2030 Palette provides an extraordinary opportunity to influence the direction we choose. We are introducing a powerful catalyst for driving global implementation of the 2030 Challenge and more – ensuring that our buildings and communities consume fewer fossil fuels, complement sensitive ecosystems, and are able to adapt to a changing climate.
Our goal is to inform the planning and design process at the point of inspiration. By curating the best information, and using powerful visuals and straightforward language, highly complex ideas are made intuitive and accessible. Guiding principles are presented as individual “Swatches”, which together make up the larger fabric of sustainable built environments. Swatches are both global in scope and local in practice, providing location-specific strategies for applications across the built environment – from interconnected transportation and habitat networks that span entire regions, to elegant passive design applications that can daylight, heat or cool a building. The platform will continue to grow – with new content and features added as transformation of the built environment unfolds.
INHABITAT: The Palette is based on your work developing and deploying the 2030 Challenge, can you give us the history of how you came up with the Challenge?
Mazria: In 2000, there was little discussion about architecture having anything to do with the climate issue. It wasn’t until 2003, when Metropolis Magazine published its “Architects Pollute” issue with the feature article titled “Turning Down the Global Thermostat”, that architecture and the built environment became recognized as the major contributors to the climate and energy crises and paradoxically, the sectors that could best solve them.
The notion of the Building Sector being a major contributor to carbon emissions originated in a workshop we conducted in our own architecture firm, bringing staff up to speed on the relationship of energy and the built environment. We conducted tutorials and one of the issues that came up was climate change, and “What does it have to do with us?” So we said “Let’s investigate, it’s an interesting question”. What we discovered was astonishing: buildings were consuming about 50 percent of all the energy produced and CO2 emitted in the United States.