By, Mike Koshmrl January 27, 2012
Famed architect Edward Mazria contributed to SOLAR TODAY’s predecessor, Solar Age, back in the late 1970s. At the time, he and University of Oregon colleagues were establishing rules of thumb for passive heating and shading. The findings were published in Mazria’s seminal text, The Passive Solar Energy Handbook. For decades following, advances in passive solar and energy-efficient design moved along, but “at a steady pace,” Mazria said.
In 2003, a Mazria discovery shifted the dynamic. “At the time, it was thought that the transportation sector was the largest emitter and consumer of energy,” Mazria recalled. “We essentially looked at the data and created a building sector. There was none — there were transportation, utility, industrial, residential and commercial sectors in the conventional datasets. There was no building sector, but it crossed all the lines. We created one, and lo and behold, it was about half of all emissions. That [discovery] essentially changed the dialogue both nationally and globally.”
Mazria went public with the building sector’s connection to climate change in “It’s the Architecture, Stupid!” which ran in the May/June 2003 issue of SOLAR TODAY. “The American architectural community has the unique opportunity to lead the way in reversing the destructive trend of human-induced climate change,” Mazria wrote almost a decade ago. “They hold the key to the lock on the global thermostat.”
A complementary article in Metropolis Magazine, “Turning Down the Global Thermostat,” brought the issue to a larger audience yet. An explosion of laboratory activity in energy-efficient design followed, for the first time since the energy crisis in the 1970s, which led to many of the leading passive heating, passive cooling, daylighting, natural ventilation and water-reuse strategies that are in use today. “We have a much better understanding of how all these things work together in a building,” Mazria said. “The applications now run the gamut — from single-family dwellings to larger commercial and institutional buildings.”
In January 2006, Mazria issued a solution to the climate change crisis — the Architecture 2030 Challenge. He worked with climate change scientists to establish incremental emission-reduction targets for buildings. Goals were set for the building sector with respect to total emission reductions necessary to keep global average temperature less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Ultimately, Architecture 2030 calls for carbon neutrality in the sector by 2030.
Mazria’s challenge was immediately adopted by the American Institute of Architects. The next year, the federal government pledged to comply on all new federal building construction and major renovations. “About 40 percent of all U.S. architecture firms have adopted the 2030 targets. And nearly three-quarters of the top 30 AE firms in the country have,” Mazria said. “That’s huge. They’re essentially the top AE firms in the world.”
“In the long term, carbon-neutral planning and design will become ubiquitous. There is no doubt in my mind, it will transcend being considered a movement and become the norm,” Mazria said. “In a similar way, the Modern Movement, which had its origins in the 1930s and ’40s, became so pervasive throughout the 20th century that we forget how revolutionary the ideas were in their day. What is extraordinary today will seem ordinary in the not-too-distant future.”