Geoff Manaugh

INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Ed Mazria from Architecture 2030

by , 05/03/11


[Image: U.S. Electrical Energy Consumption, via Architecture 2030].

Geoff: Beyond the teach-in, how do you anticipate getting this message into the schools and design offices? Is this a question of issuing textbooks and PDFs, or just organizing more events?

Ed

: You’re not going to do it one school at a time. There are too many schools. You have hundreds of thousands of students being educated today, and they are not fully ecologically literate. They don’t have a total grasp of the global situation we’re facing, and what must happen next. And it’s not just the students – their instructors aren’t fully aware of this, either.

So we propose to do this in two ways. One is an immediate method, and one is a short-term method. The immediate method is well-defined: we will address every design school in the world, globally, and we will ask every instructor to add one sentence to every problem that they issue in their design studios. That’s all we’re asking them to do. We’re not asking them to change the assignments – we’re asking them to add one sentence.

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

This will set off a chain reaction, globally, throughout the student population. Because what the students will do at the outset of a new assignment is they will research the issue. They’ll then come back to the class with all the information they can find – and all the information, by the way, is available on the internet. They have access very, very quickly to this information. They’ll then bring everyone else in that class, including the instructor, up to speed on the issues, the design strategies, and the technologies that are available and part of the design palette. Out of that, universities and professional studios will become instruments for transforming design. If you bring creative problem-solving to the issue, many, many different ways of addressing the problem will come about – in ways we can’t even imagine. And that’s the beauty of making this change immediately. We can then work on a systematic approach, between 2007 and 2010, to bring true ecological literacy to all the design schools.

Materials testing facility, Ed Mazria, Photos courtesy Design Workshop Inc, Metropolis Magazine, Architecture 2030, AIA, Sustainable Architecture, Green Architecture, Environmental Architecture, Eco-friendly architecture, Energy Savings Buildings[Image: Materials Testing Facility, Vancouver, designed by Busby Perkins + Will. The design "incorporates recycled and reused materials extensively throughout the building," and other "sustainable ('green') building design concepts, such as natural ventilation and solar shading have also been utilized." Via Architecture 2030].

Geoff: In that same time period, do you plan to approach large-scale home developers, like Toll Brothers or KB Home, to inspire environmental change on a larger and more immediate scale?

Mazria

: You have to remember that we’re a very small organization! [laughs] I think, though, that a growing movement around these issues, and around the 2030 Challenge, is beginning to take shape, so I would imagine that there are many other people in other industries who may begin to embrace these changes. For example, there’s an organization called ConSol, and they address the mass-market housing industry in terms of the issues we just talked about. There’s the Urban Land Institute. There’s the Congress for the New Urbanism. They all specifically address how such issues affect development.

Geoff: What about designing a kind of prototype development, or model village, that might serve to exemplify the 2030 Challenge?

Mazria

: To teach by design? I think that’s happening. On our website, we have a whole section on projects that begin to meet the targets, and we do have buildings that fit that category, that we’ve designed over the years. In fact, in the 1980s, we designed the Mt. Airy Library that reduced its consumption of fossil fuels over an average building of that type, in that region, by over 80%. Just through design.

In fact, in the early 1980s, right after the first energy crisis, the US Department of Energy sponsored anywhere between twelve and eighteen architects around the country to design very low-energy buildings. I would say probably every one of those architects demonstrated that you could get reductions of 50-80% just through design! There were many, many buildings built in the late 1970s, and during the 1980s, using passive solar design, and day-lighting principles, that actually put those buildings off the grid.

So you have a wealth of information generated way back then. It wasn’t until oil went down to $10 a barrel, and the Reagan Administration came in and basically killed off all these initiatives, that we really came to rely on fossil fuels. Now our buildings are sealed up; they have no real integrated relationship with the exterior environment. When we talk about a connection to the environment in architecture today, for the past 30 or 50 years we’ve just been talking about a visual connection. We haven’t been talking about a real, integrated, energy-based connection between the building and its environment. And that’s where the term open systems comes from – and where we need to be headed.

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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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