New Bottom Line Volume 15.3 – Building the Change: The 2030 Climate Challenge

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Mazria.jpg Ed Mazria presented the opening keynote at West Coast Green in San Francisco September 28, and offered what was probably the most compelling, moving and useful global warming presentation I’ve heard yet. (No offense, Al, but Ed got more usefully into what to do for high leverage impact.)

‘When the US balked at Kyoto,’ he explained, ‘the stated concern was impact on industry and competitiveness. But US industry has held emissions relatively flat for the last 20 years (part thru efficiency, part thru export of industry and emissions).’

But the lions share of US emissions — 48% — and the fastest growing sector is emissions from buildings (about 1/6 of that in their construction, and 5/6 in their operations) The usual energy pies show US energy yse approximately evenly divided between buildings, transportation, industry and commerce. But transportation, industry and commerce all involve buildings, so slicing the pies differently ties nearly half of US energy use to buildings. Moveover, building decisions are long-lived — They can have impact for decades.

‘We are the problem,’ Mazria told 7000 building industry professionals, ‘and we are the solution.’

The US builds 5 billion square feet of new construction each year, renovates an equivalent amount, and tears down 1.75 billion, in a total building stock of some 275 billion square foot. ‘In the next 30 years, we’ll take down 52 billion of that, renovate 150 billion, add 150 billion. By 2035, 80% of our built environment will be new or renovated.’

What a huge opportunity to turn the entire building sector around!

So Mazria has posed the 2030 challenge. Three steps, clear and simple:

1. All new building projects and major renovations meet a fossil fuel energy consumption performance standard of 1/2 the national (or country) average for that building type.

2. A minimum amount of existing building area be renovated to use one-half the fossil fuel energy they currently consume

This is a win-win-win for everybody, Mazria says. There’s no downside. ‘ If you do that, you don’t need the new power plant’ — which is awfully important, since China alone is building a coal-fired power plant each week)

3. To bend curve down, take the new building standards down a notch every 10 years; at 2010, the reduction target for new construction and major renovations would be 60%
2015: 70%
2020: 80%
2025: 90%
2030: carbon neutral, requiring no fossil fuel energy to operate

How hard is this? Mazria answered his own question. ‘You can’t fail. We’ve made it fail proof. You can only get an A. It’s simple, with three ways to play:’

1. Design and innovation
If you think about site, shape, put the glass on right side, shade the glazing, shape of openings, daylighting, natural ventilation, adjust materials properties and colors, you should be able to get 50% from low cost/no cost improvements — changes that are basically information.

2. Add technology
Solar hot water (hot water currently accounts for 15% of household energy consumption), PV, wind, geo, movable insulation, mechanical shading, high efficiency systems & appliances. These may add cost, but provide an attractive payback.

3. Purchase renewable energy or certified renewable energy credits (RECs) (30% maximum)

Since the 2030 Challenge was issued in January 2006, the American Institute of Architects (with 78,000 members) has adopted it verbatim, and added education commitments. The US Conference of Mayors — led by Daley of Chicago, Chavez of Albuquerque, Diaz of Miami and Nickels of Seattle — adopted it unanimously, and is calling on all cities to implement. New Mexico is requiring these criteria of all state buildings. And efforts are underway to get the US EPA to include these energy reduction targets in their building performance benchmarks.

And so the revolution proceeds. Fourteen mayors have formed a coalition to stop more than a dozen new coal plants planned in Texas. 2001 New England governors & Eastern Canada premiers have pledged by 2010, reduce emissions to 1990 levels. But their emissions are continuing to increase, even proclamations proclamations and laws and executive orders. We need to put in practice what we say. California’s cap on GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020 isn’t just a target, it’s the law. ‘The only way to meet that goal, ‘Mazria says, ‘is to get a handle on the building sector.’

There was faint praise, if any, for the US Green Building Council, home of the LEEDâ„¢ rating system for green buildings. ‘The AIA stepped out ahead of the USGBC, and adopted targets’ Mazria noted. ‘The GBC done nothing since, but will develop Standard 189 with ASHRAE to set a minimum benchmark. That’s bad news, and years from now.’

The AIA has called on USGBC to incorporate minimal GHG reductions into LEED:
Certified: 50%
Silver: 65%
Gold: 80%
Platinum: Carbon neutral

‘Ask the GBC to get on this, Mazria ehorted. ‘LEED should be leadership; we have to do this tomorrow, not next year. New Mexico is going to require this in state. buildings; ask Calif to do the same. And ask ASHRAE 189 to establish the 50% benchmark

Finally, Mazria turned his attention to eduction. ‘ There are 100k arch/engi/LA etc students in the US, and they’re getting very little education in ecology and design.’

So he’s also cooked up a ‘2010 imperative’ for professional schools
1. Beginning 2007, add one sentence to curricula and student project directives:

All projects will be designed to engage the environment in way that dram reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuel

‘and within one year,’ Mazria asserts, ‘the entire education system will be changed.’

2. Achieve complete ecological literacy in design education by 2012 (though I’ll confess I’m not clear how he proposes this to happen that quickly)

3. Achieve carbon neutral campuses for all design schools
– implement sustainable design strategies
– generate on site power
– purchase renewable energy and RECs

Finally Mazria proposed a third challenge — the ‘Feb 2010 Imperative,’ calling for a global design teach in ‘some day in February 2007.’

‘An Inconvenient Truth’ shakes people loose. The 2030 challenge offers what I call sufficient goals — and provides a doable plan for meeting them. Let’s go!

(A version of this article is also posted at

(c) 2006 Gil Friend. All rights reserved.

New Bottom Line is published periodically by Natural Logic, offering decision support software and strategic consulting that help companies and communities prosper by embedding the laws of nature at the heart of enterprise.

Gil Friend, systems ecologist and business strategist, is President and CEO of Natural Logic, Inc.

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