Setting The Target

The 2030 Challenge established 2030 as the industry’s target date for eliminating fossil fuel use in buildings. The architect who established the Challenge says the goal is still obtainable.

Ed Mazria, FAIA, changed the course of the building industry’s approach to climate change in 2006, when he launched the 2030 Challenge. Mazria threw down the gauntlet for designers, establishing net zero as a firm target, while creating a path to meet the goals. The American Institute of Architects committed to supporting the Challenge, making it the foundation for architecture’s response to the looming environmental crisis.

LPA was an early supporter of 2030, and in the last two years we were the largest firm in the country to surpass the benchmark of a 70 percent reduction in new projects. Today, Mazria’s call to action and his focus on achievable energy efficiency goals—and the need to develop tools and processes to make it happen—resonate more than ever.

In an interview with Catalyst, Mazria discusses the years ahead and steps that will be necessary to create more fuel-efficient buildings.

Why do you feel 2030 is the best approach to focus the industry?

The next 10 years will be critical in determining whether it’s possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avert irreversible and very dangerous climate change. In order to have a 67 percent chance—a high probability—of meeting this target, we must reduce CO2 emissions by 65 percent from today’s level by 2030 and phase out all CO2 emissions by 2040. If we do not meet the 2030 date, then we must phase out all CO2 emissions sooner than 2040.

Is net zero still a realistic goal for 2030?

With the ZERO Code as a framework for renewable energy generation and procurement, zero carbon new buildings are cost effective today—achievable by efficient building design with onsite and/or offsite renewable energy— and certainly by 2030.

Do we need government action to make it happen?

Yes, governments have the potential to dramatically scale and accelerate emissions reductions in the built environment. For example, the ZERO Code is a zero-net-carbon code standard that utilizes existing code standards—ASHRAE 90.1-2016 as a minimum or Title 24 for the ZERO Code California—and adds renewable energy production and/or procurement requirements, resulting in zero-net-carbon buildings. In 2019, the ZERO Code Renewable Energy Appendix was incorporated into the 2012 IECC, allowing local jurisdictions to adopt the appendix and require zero-net-carbon building design using any year of the IECC.

To meet the 1.5ºC targets established by the Paris Agreement, we will need both top-down policies and incentives and the continuation of firm and project-scale actions and emissions reductions.

What is the one step you’d like to see more architects take to reduce energy use?

Our buildings will always consume energy, so while energy efficiency is a critical first step in reducing the amount of energy our buildings consume, architects must also think beyond energy efficiency and expand their skills and knowledge of renewable energy applications, generation and procurement. This ensures that the energy buildings consume comes from renewable energy sources, either through on-site production or off-site procurement.

When you consider solutions, what does the industry need to do differently?

The industry has made great progress on operational carbon reductions. In order to meet our Paris Agreement 1.5ºC targets, we must also focus on reducing embodied carbon in buildings and infrastructure—40 percent today, 65 percent by 2030 and to zero carbon by 2040.

How do we get more developers and builders onboard?

Many developers and builders are already onboard for reducing embodied and operational carbon emissions. This is growing alongside the creation of embodied-carbon government policies, the dissemination of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), a free online database of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and the use of whole-building and landscape design embodied-carbon programs.

Should the AIA require participants to sign onto the 2030 Commitment and include reporting results as part of the criteria for COTE and other awards programs?

This was part of the conversation during the CarbonPositive RESET! as well. While the COTE awards do require participants to be 2030 Commitment signatories, most professional award programs do not incorporate climate mitigation and adaptation design and performance criteria. Awarding recognition for the incorporation of energy and emissions reductions and adaptation design principles and strategies in award programs globally would not only encourage significant carbon reductions, but would also greatly expand climate, energy and emissions design literacy and awareness.