Geoff: What’s the other 8%?
: The other 8% is greenhouse gas emissions released in producing the materials for buildings – materials that architects can specify – as well as during the construction process itself.
But the major part, you see – 40% – is design. Every time we design a building, we set up its energy consumption pattern and its greenhouse gas emissions pattern for the next 50-100 years. That’s why the building sector and the architecture sector is so critical. It takes a long time to turn over – whereas the transportation sector, on wheels, in this country, turns over once every twelve years.
[Image: "U.S. Energy Consumption by Sector. A reorganization of existing data - combining the energy required to run residential, commercial, and industrial buildings along with the embodied energy of industry-produced materials like carpet, tile, and hardware - exposes architecture as the hidden polluter." Graphic by Criswell Lappin, via Metropolis].
Geoff: Speaking of which, you’ve pointed out elsewhere that SUVs only represent about 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the US – yet they receive the brunt of the media’s attention and anger. The real culprit is wastefully designed architecture.
: People must remember, though, that this doesn’t let the US automobile industry off the hook! Cars and SUVs are still part of the problem – and we need to attack that part of the problem.
And there are solutions. One of the solutions, for example, is to use plug-in hybrid flex-fuel technology. Plug-in meaning you can collect energy on your rooftop, with photovoltaic cells, and then plug your car into a battery at night, and drive 30-50 miles on a charge. Then you can use hybrid technology to get incredible miles; then you can use flex-fuel – so you put high-cellulose alcohol or ethanol into the tank, rather than fossil fuels. So there are solutions in that sector.
: It seems like the 2030 Challenge has met with a lot of enthusiasm from both the American Institute of Architects and the US Conference of Mayors. Is that the case, or were you hoping for a better response?
: The response was immediate, and very gratifying. Right when we issued the challenge, in January of 2006, the American Institute of Architects adopted it for all its 78,000 members. That did two things. One, it got the wheels turning within the architecture and building sector to figure out how to meet the Challenge. Two, it began getting resources and information to architects and to designers about how to change course.
Just as important, the US Conference of Mayors then adopted the 2030 Challenge in a resolution that was passed at their annual convention. That was passed unanimously. The 2030 Challenge was adopted for all buildings in all cities. That’s very important.