In 2006, Ed Mazria and his New Mexico-based non-profit organization, Architecture 2030, released the 2030 Challenge to get the building industry to turn completely carbon neutral by the year 2030. As buildings are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, Mazria believes that 48% of total US energy consumption could be reduced if the building sector would take the proper measures to reduce their carbon footprint to zero. Read ahead for our exclusive interview with Ed Mazria as he discusses the challenges that lay ahead.
Geoff Manaugh: First, how did you choose the specific targets of the 2030 Challenge?
: Well, let’s see. The way we developed the 2030 Challenge was by working backward from the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that scientists were telling us we needed to reach by 2050. Working backwards from those reductions, and looking at, specifically, the building sector – which is responsible for about half of all emissions – you can see what we need to do today. You can see the targets that we need to reach so we can avoid hitting what the scientists have called catastrophic climate change.
If you do that, you see that we need an immediate, 50% reduction in fossil fuel, greenhouse gas-emitting energy in all new building construction. And since we renovate about as much as we build new, we need a 50% reduction in renovation, as well. If you then increase that reduction by 10% every five years – so that by 2030 all new buildings use no greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuel energy to operate – then you reach a state that’s called carbon neutral. And you get there by 2030. That way we meet the targets that climate scientists have set out for us.
That’s how we came up with the 2030 Challenge – meaning a 50% reduction today, and going to carbon neutral by 2030.
[Image: A chart of Architecture 2030's emissions goals; via Metropolis. Also available as a PDF].
Geoff: When you say that the building sector is responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions, though, do you mean that in a direct or an indirect sense? Because surely houses aren’t just sitting there emitting carbon dioxide all day – it’s the power plants that those houses are connected to.
: It’s direct. The number is actually 48% of total US energy consumption that can be attributed to the building sector, most of which – 40% of total consumption – can be attributed just to building operations. That’s heating, lighting, cooling, and hot water. There are others – running pumps and things like that. But 40% of total US energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed just to building operations.