The NESEA building green 07 conference is over and the dust has settled but that doesn’t mean I am done reporting about all the amazing people and products that I saw there. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be highlighting some of these people and products.
The first of the many amazing people that spoke this year was Edward Mazria. Mr Mazria is the senior principal of Maria Inc, senior fellow of the Design Futures Council and founder of Architecture 2030, not to mention a very effective speaker and all around cool guy.
Mr Mazria spoke about the large amount of energy used in the building industry. Of the industries that consume energy building operation is the largest at 48% (40% to run them 8% to build them), compared to 25% industrial and 27% transportation. Obviously a green building revolution would create a radical difference in the way energy is used in this country.
“Things are changing so quickly that even people ahead of the curve, like the building industry, may soon be behind, even blamed for the problem” said Mr. Mazria. He then went on to highlight why it is so important that we start building structures that use dramatically less energy.
We know the threats of global warming, we know for instance that our energy use is slated to increase by a third over the next few decades. For every 1% increase in energy use we will need to build the equivalent of 40 1000MW power plants. The question arises, what kind of power plants do we build? Its not oil plant, oil is on its way out. Its not nuclear, at least not right now, many people things its going to be coal. Coal is the only substance that we have a lot of and is cheap enough to bother digging out of the ground. If we use coal however we will most surly be signing our own execution order.
Currently science tells us that we have warmed the earth about 8/10ths of a degree (Celsius) over preindustrial levels. The main cause, co2 emissions, is from burning fossil fuels, coal being the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. If the earths tempurature were to raise 2 degrees (C) humanity would be hard pressed to survive, at a 3 degree rise (C) we would almost certainly die off. At our current rate of CO2 emissions (2ppm/year) we will see a 2 degree rise by 2050, and a 3 degree rise by 2100. Humans would not be the only ones effected by this glut of CO2. It has been predicted that as many as 25-50% of all plant and animal species could go extinct by 2100, if this rapid rise in temperature continues. Think about that for a second, if half of EVERYTHING was dead, what would this earth look like? The next 100 years then defines our time frame for action.
Ed has one simple plan, make structures that use less energy, and make them fast. How much less you might add, at least 50% less, scaling down rapidly over time to 0% energy use from fossil fuel sources. He calls his plan Architecture 2030, it is a simple and ambitious plan. By 2035 Mr. Mazria estimates 75% of all buildings in the USA will be either new construction or renovated construction, that means if we plan now, we can make a huge difference in the kind of structures we will have in the future. Imagine if you could replace 75% of all buildings with ones that used only 50% of the power they do now, it would be revolutionary. And a revolution is just what Mr. Mazria has in mind.
His plan has some simple steps.
Step one, no new coal plants, period. They are dirty, we don’t have any effective way to capture and store all that carbon.
Step two, all new buildings must use 50% less energy (from fossil fuels) than the average for the area they are being built, or a national average by 2030.
Step three, any renovated buildings must use 50% less energy (from fossil fuels) by 2030.
Step four, every five years we tighten these standards by 5%. By 2030 all structures will be use 0% energy from fossil fuels.
His message was simple, we can not “supply our way out of this problem” we will need to build massive wind farms, and solar parks, and use biofuels, and all the rest, but at the same time a massive effort to REDUCE must be undertaken. Reduce how much energy we use to run buildings, and reduce how much energy it takes to build them.
His ideas are starting to catch on. The US Conference Of Mayors adopted Architecture 2030 Unanimously. Now all they have to do is start acting on it. Instead of waiting for them to take action what are some ways we can meet this goal of 50% energy usage reduction by 2030?
Low tech design options:
- passive solar
- natural lighting
- green local building materials
- use natural shading for cooling
These options are low cost and easy to design into new construction.
Community scale options:
- Road layout
- infill and density
How we design new communities has a great deal of impact on how much energy is used to run them. Putting the jobs centers near the housing means people can walk to work, building in bike paths into the road layouts, using natural tree barriers to shade, making sure you have the proper density and infill, all of these things effect energy usage.
Add new tech:
- new more efficient lighting
- more efficient appliances
- better weather sealing
- more and better insulation
These technologies can take existing homes and make them more efficient. The payback is always worth the extra spent on the efficient appliances, and its a very easy thing to change.
Buy the rest:
- wind farms
- solar panels
- new tech
If you can’t design your way to 50% less energy usage install some green energy production to make up the difference. This is where your wind farm or your solar panels come in. Your biofuel combined heat and power devices, your geothermal heat pump, your solar thermal panels, etc. They push you over that 50% mark of less consumption of fossil fuel energy.
Mr Mazria also laid out a role the government could play to help make this change happen rapidly. He suggests the following.
Double tax credits for 50% less buildings. He claims the credits are so small now that it costs more to fill out the paper work than you get from the tax breaks for most buildings.
Partner with industry to develop green ratings for products. If the consumer can easily tell the difference between an A+ can of paint and an F- can of paint they will make green choices.
Create design tools that allow architects the ability to easily see how much energy usage is affects by the choices they make for buildings design. “Just give us the box!” he said as he called for simple integrated tools that will display energy usage using CAD tools.
He also gave tips for implementing the targets:
- provide local incentives
- fast track permits for 50% homes
- lower tax values for renewable energy systems
- change the building codes to reflect this new 50% goal
- deny building permits to people who do not meet the 50% less goal for new construction
He also addressed schools. Design schools must begin teaching their students about the consequences of building structures that use high amounts of energy. Mr. Mazria calls for complete ecological literacy by 2010. That is the students will know where the products in the structure came from, what amount of CO2 it will create, what the energy usage pattern is, how it will affect the local environment, etc.
Mr. Mazria put forth a compelling argument for why we must stop talking about doing things and start doing them. We are literally destroying the one and only planet we rely upon for life. He ended his talk with the story of the butterfly effect. Most of us know about the butterfly effect, a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan, that sets in motion a series of events that cause a tornado in Kansas. What most people don’t think about is that a butterfly could flap its wings in Japan, and set in motion a series of events that prevents a tornado in Kansas.