Geoff Manaugh

INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Ed Mazria from Architecture 2030

by , 05/03/11

Ed Mazria, photographed by Doug Hoeschler for Metropolis, Doeg Hoeschler, Metropolis Magazine, Mazria/Kepler Residence, Architecture 2030, AIA, Sustainable Architecture, Green Architecture, Environmental Architecture, Eco-friendly architecture,

Geoff: As far as implementing the Challenge goes, it that as simple as sending out a new pamphlet to housing contractors that explains how they can change their building techniques? Or is it as complex as starting whole new university degrees?

Ed

: Well, first you have to inform. People really have to be aware of this issue. Universities don’t really understand their role in this whole situation. So the first step is to inform – and we’ve actually gone a long way in that. We’ve done a lot of magazine articles and other publications; we’ve done public speaking; and there’s also our website – so we’re making an impact.

What we’re really doing is changing the conversation. Through changing – or expanding – the conversation, we’ve been able to issue the 2030 Challenge. We would not have been able to issue that had we not changed the conversation. So we issued the Challenge, which was picked up by the profession and then by the cities, and that was absolutely critical. Now businesses are picking it up. For instance, at the same time that we were issuing the Challenge, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development out with a call for carbon neutral buildings by 2050. So we’ve asked the AIA to begin a dialogue with them to get that done by 2030, instead.

Also, since that time, I gave a talk at a conference hosted by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. ICLEI’s membership consists of about 475 cities worldwide. It’s kind of a global counterpart to the US Conference of Mayors – though many cities in the US are members. At the end of that conference, they adopted the 2030 Challenge. They’re now bringing it up with their global Board of Directors, to discuss adopting the Challenge worldwide. Actually, adopted is not the right word – they incorporated the Challenge into their targets.

Ed Mazria, photographed by Robert Reck for Metropolis, Robert Reck, Genoveva Chavez Community Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Metropolis Magazine, Architecture 2030, AIA, Sustainable Architecture, Green Architecture, Environmental Architecture, Eco-friendly architecture,

Geoff: Do you think the speed with which the Challenge has been adopted reflects a kind of embarrassment over the failure of the Kyoto Protocol?

Ed

: That’s possible. It’s also now more accepted that the science is firm; people are accepting that the debate is essentially over, and that we must move from debate to action. But scientists have given us a very, very small window of opportunity here. We have essentially ten years to begin to get this situation under control. Otherwise we’ll hit tipping points beyond which there will be very little anyone can do to influence things. So there’s a new sense of urgency.

What has been lacking so far are specifics on how to attack the problem. Most initiatives are general, without real teeth behind them, saying that we’re going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by this much, by this date. But I think that the people who have adopted these initiatives are now looking for ways to implement them, to meet their own targets. The 2030 Challenge gives them a very specific way to do this – and I think that’s the main reason why this has taken hold as quickly as it has.

Geoff: In the meantime, you’ve seen corporations like Wal-Mart try to reinvent themselves as pro-green, pro-sustainability firms, because they’ve seen that there is a profit motive. It makes sense for the environment – but it also makes sense for shareholders. The shift isn’t necessarily altruistic.

Ed

: I think it’s going mainstream for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is what we just talked about: the urgency of the issue. There are many people out there with a conscience, and they think about the future rather than just their own immediate needs. They think about their children and their grandchildren. I think that’s moving some of this. But I think you’re right: I think another part of this is essentially self-serving, that going green may give you a leg up on the competition. It may save you money. It may enhance your image in the community, which means your business can maneuver with more ease and fewer restrictions. The real point is: whatever the motivation, it’s going in the right direction.

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6 Comments

  1. Patrick McGuinness October 26, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    Given this challenge: “That the project be designed to engage the environment in a way that dramatically reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuels.”

    There is one design that could answer that challenge fully and dramatically: Designing and building safe, non-GHG-emitting nuclear power plants.

    Nuclear power can make the entire electrical energy sector carbon-neutral and de-link total energy usage from global warming. Seventy-six percent of all electricity generated by US power plants goes to supply the Building Sector. Building 300 nuclear power plants would be enough to make that entire portion of our energy consumption non-fossil fuel based, and this is not an impractical goal, as it is merely bringing the US up to where France and Japan are in terms of use of nuclear power for electricity production.

  2. Nikos Karamesinis October 11, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Actually quite an informative article since I am on the beginning of a project which aims to give as a boost to develop a few houses in a settlement that has near zero or zero carbon footprint. Thank you for all the important information.

    Karamesinis Nikos
    DMU Leicester
    BArch

  3. Sustainable Sean January 29, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Absolutely AWESOME interview and article. Kudos to Mazria and you guys!

  4. Pink Robe January 29, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Excellent article! We’re meeting with an architect in a couple of days to talk about a reno of our home, and I’m definitely going to be talking to him about these topics.

  5. Geoff January 29, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Just a quick note: somehow, in posting this, all of the interview’s links disappeared! So you’re left with a bunch of fake links that go nowhere.

    However, we’ll be fixing that over the next few hours – so by late afternoon or so those should be fully functional.

    Sorry about any confusion, meanwhile -

  6. Nick Simpson January 29, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Haven’t had chance to read the whole article yet – having to head into Uni, where I’ll sit and read it right the way through – but this is EXACTLY what should be happening over there. What a brilliant guy! And to put it into context, we’ve just been told here in the UK that all housing must be carbon neutral within the next 10 years (and we’ve been one of the slowest of the bigger countries to adopt environmental legislation in Europe). So even with another long-term Republican government (please, please no…) there’ll be plenty of evidence by even 2020 to show that it’s easy to do and there’s no excuses for the government not to go with this.

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