The Architect's Role In Climate Change

Geoff Manaugh interviews Architect Ed Mazria about his efforts to promote ecological literacy and his challenge to the architecture and planning community to stop climate change.

"Last year, Ed Mazria and his New Mexico-based non-profit organization, Architecture 2030, revealed that architecture -- or the building sector, more generally -- is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide. To help prevent 'catastrophic' climate change, then, the building sector must become carbon neutral. Reaching that state before the year 2030 is what Mazria has dubbed the 2030 Challenge."

[Manaugh talks with] "Mazria about climate change, sustainable design, and carbon neutrality; about the present state, and future direction, of architectural education; about suburban development, Wal-Mart, and SUVs; and about the 2030 Challenge itself."



Green design and planning

I do wonder if planners of the so-called "environmental" communities have any interaction with the architects. Or if New Urbanist planners care whether the actual buildings within their developments are wasteful.

Here are a few problems that I have noticed with buildings in NU developments:

1)Very limited stairway access -- the elevator is often the only option.

2) Residents forbidden from hanging laundry outside.

3)Enormous electricity usage. Fountains run all day, every day. 24-hour lights everywhere. Televisions run 24-7 in the workout rooms - there is no way to turn them off.

4) Treadmill is the only place to go for a walk or a run.

5) As far as I know, no use of renewable energy. All electricity is fossil-fuel generated. Even if the development bakes in the sun 9 months of the year.

Quite broad generalizations

I've been to scores of New Urbanist developments around the country, and think that your statements are overly broad. Not only are New Urbanists (many of whom are architects) around the world working with architects on environmentally advanced buildings -- indeed, New Urbanists designed, at last count, half of the LEED Platinum certified buildings in the world -- but your specific points blame New Urbanism for facets of life that are frankly beyond any planners' control.

1. This is often required by fire codes.
2. The covenants attached to many suburban subdivisions have banned outdoor laundry hanging for many years now; not that people always follow such rules, though. I've seen laundry hanging outside in several New Urbanist developments, as well as in other newer suburbs.
3. This is a management issue that architects and planners have nearly no control over.
4. If it doesn't have sidewalks, I don't consider it New Urbanist.
5. On-site renewable electricity generation is exceedingly rare outside California, but on my desk I have photos of two award-winning New Urbanist developments near Denver (Belmar and Prospect Solar Village) that use photovoltaic panels or wind turbines to generate electricity on-site.

Indeed, the Congress for the New Urbanism, with the US Green Building Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is about to launch LEED-ND, a set of standards for environmentally advanced neighborhoods that requires not just energy-efficient buildings (as current green building standards do) but also walkable, connected neighborhoods and smart site planning, to improve the entire community's environmental performance.

I believe that Mazria et al underestimate the importance of such community factors, but the fact remains that most Americans use more energy getting to and from their homes than they use at home.

Green developments.

I do wonder if planners of the so-called "environmental" communities have any interaction with the architects. Or if New Urbanist planners care whether the actual buildings within their developments are wasteful.

Planners do the physical planning and the general layout of the project. It's a bonus if the developer has an arch or hires an arch firm that is familiar with NU developments, green bldgs, LEED, etc. And hopefully the developer doesn't do a NU knockoff just to maximize profit (which is what I suspect you are describing).

o These things you enumerate below the italicized can be lumped into a description of enticements that the developer installs in order to make their project saleable.

o I don't know of any NU developments that don't have places to walk.



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