Gallery: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Ed Mazria from Architecture 2030

 

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?

Ed Mazria

: 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.

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.

Ed

: 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.

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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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