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Making carbon-nuetral buildings mainstream by 2030


What’s with the year 2030? Characters in the movies Back to the Future and Time Machine stop by in MMXXX, and 52-year old Ted from How I Met Your Mother reflects on his past love life from the vantage point of 2030, the year the song Happy Birthday will enter the public domain.

But the reason 2030 is the new 1999, the year embodying our aspirations and anxieties, and, as a result, our policies, hardly relates to mass culture. Our population should edge over eight million by then. Eighteen percent of our coral reefs will have been put to death by climate change. Some ice caps and glaciers will have disappeared.

But if Ed Mazria has his way, the largest contributors to pollution and biggest consumers of energy—our buildings—will have shrunk their carbon footprints to zero by then; perhaps they’ll even be able to mitigate those disastrous climate change effects. Mazria started Architecture2030 in 2002 to “rapidly transform the US and global Building Sector from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution to the global-warming crisis.”

Noble goal, but how exactly do we attain it? Mazria has signed up some 461 firms/offices/organizations and 263 individuals to adopt the Architecture 2030 Challenge, asking them to “reduce their fossil-fuel GHG-emitting consumption by 50% by 2010, incrementally increasing the reduction for new buildings to carbon neutral by 2030.”

They don’t tell you exactly how to do it—this isn’t a LEED replacement, or alternative to the Living Building Challenge. Make the buildings any size or shape you want, place them anywhere—but make sure they’re on their way to carbon neutrality.

It may sound lofty, but plenty of municipalities have passed laws and shifted policy to achieve 2030’s goals, and on December 19th, 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, requiring that all new and renovated federal buildings meet the 2030 Challenge targets. Not only that, President Bush actually signed it into law. It might be a good year after all.