2030 Challenge: Acting Now To Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions

June 1, 2007

Proper use of insulation goes a long way toward saving energy, but those involved in the energy industry know that more efforts are needed to make a lasting impact. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the key steps to avoiding catastrophic climate change worldwide, yet there are hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the drawing boards in the United States. Seventy-six percent of the energy produced by these plants will be used to operate buildings. Architecture 2030—a non-profit, non-partisan, independent organization established in 2005 and sponsored by New Energy Economy—has shown that buildings are responsible for almost half (48 percent) of all the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions annually in the United States; globally, the percentage is even greater.

Stabilizing emissions in the building sector and reversing them to acceptable levels over the next 10 years will be critical. This will hold global warming to approximately a degree centigrade above today’s level. But how can this be accomplished? Architecture 2030 has issued The 2030 Challenge to the global architecture and building community to accomplish this impressive goal. The 2030 Challenge provides the following targets:

  • All new buildings, developments, and major renovations should be designed to meet a fossil-fuel, greenhouse gas–emitting, energy-consumption standard of 50 percent of the regional (or country’s) average for that building type.
  • At a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area should be renovated annually to meet a fossil-fuel, green house gas–emitting, energy-consumption performance standard of 50 percent of the regional (or country’s) average for that building type.
  • The fossil-fuel reduction standard for all new buildings should be increased in the following increments:
    • 60 percent in 2010
    • 70 percent in 2015
    • 80 percent in 2020
    • 90 percent in 2025
    • Carbon-neutral by 2030 (using no fossil-fuel, greenhouse gas–emitting energy to operate)

These targets may be accomplished by implementing innovative sustainable design strategies, generating on-site renewable power, and/or purchasing (20-percent maximum) renewable energy and/or certified renewable energy credits.

These targets are not out of reach. Most developments and buildings can be designed to use only a small amount of energy at little or no additional cost through insulation, proper planning, siting, building form, glass properties and location, material selection, and by incorporating natural heating, cooling, ventilation, and day-lighting strategies. The additional energy necessary to maintain comfort and operate equipment can be supplied by renewable resources, such as solar, wind, biomass, and other viable carbon-free sources.

To learn more about The 2030 Challenge, please visit www.architecture2030.org. Look for a more in-depth article on the challenge in the August issue of Insulation Outlook.

This article was reprinted with permission from Architecture 2030. Edward Mazria, American Institute of Architects (AIA), is a senior principal at Mazria, Inc., an architecture and planning firm in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and founder of Architecture 2030. He is author of The Passive Solar Energy Book, senior analyst for the Southwest Climate Council, and adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. He speaks nationally and internationally on the subject of climate change and architecture.