2030 Planning Challenge

paytonc's picture

I attended a speech last night by Edward Mazria, who's generated a whole lot of buzz within the architecture community with his 2030 Challenge:

(this includes many of the same slides from his speech)

Ed is an architect who comes from a solar-design background -- in fact, he wrote the very first architecture book I remember reading, "The Passive Solar Energy Book" (1979). He brings some architect biases with him, for instance when he proclaims that "buildings cause half [48%] of all carbon dioxide emissions in the USA." His speech and his strategies are aimed at architects and the building trades, since that's the game he plays, although in more recent talks (like last night), he's talked a bit about the role that planners can play in reducing the building industry's contribution to climate change.

The speech got me thinking about what a 2030 Challenge for Planners would look like. The marvelous simplicity of the 2030 Challenge is that it sets some very easy to remember performance standards: today, all new buildings should use 50% less energy than their peers, with increasing targets so that new buildings are carbon neutral by 2030. (This will make a big impact since 3/4 of buildings extant in 2035 will have been built or remodeled since 2005. Buildings have a shorter lifespan than we think.)

However, planning's literally less concrete than architecture; it's harder to quantify the ways in which planning can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Planners can take steps to reduce energy-intensive solo driving: Cambridge, Mass. has a policy that new developments not generate any new auto trips, and do whatever TDM is necessary to achieve that; and we know of countless ways to make walking, cycling, and transit useful. Planners can also work with new developments to include highly efficient community-scale energy generation, like "district heat & power" systems powered by geothermal, solar, wind, or biomass. To the extent that planners influence the energy grid (siting new transmission lines and power plants, large or small, clean or dirty), that's another chance.

But what would you include in a 2030 Challenge? As a former colleague of mine would say whenever I turned in a memo, "keep it simple stupid" -- so stupid that even the dimmest bulb on the planning commission will understand it. These are the people who will need convincing.


paytonc's picture

USGBC has signed on

In an interview in the June 2007 issue of Urban Land, USGBC President & CEO Rick Fedrizzi notes that the newly sharpened focus on climate change has brought changes to LEED. To wit:

- all new LEED projects must have baseline 50% CO2 reduction over conventional buildings, a key tenet of the 2030 Challenge.
- energy optimization credits have been toughened.
- and most interestingly, USGBC has started a project to quantify the CO2 reductions from green buildings so that those can be sold as carbon credits on the open market.

However, buildings have an easy go of it: it's (relatively) quick and easy to plug a building into energy modeling software and get some numbers on how it will perform relative to baseline averages. Communities are much more complex creatures, and quantifying these numbers will be the first of many challenges towards creating a bold but attainable 2030 Community Challenge.

Will USGBC go farther than 50%, as 2030 does?

As you explained it to me yesterday, as the Challenge ramps up to toward 2030, it shoots for bigger reductions compared to the baseline -- starting with 50%, then goign to 60%, on up to 100%. Has USGBC indicated whether it will go beyond requiring mroe than 50% reductions from LEED-rated projects? This will be an interesting challenge to adapt to LEED-ND.

paytonc's picture

Parallel efforts

The Sierra Club is setting its sights pretty low by naming cities that "adopt Kyoto" (where Al Gore committed the U.S. to a 7% reduction of carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2012) as "Cool Cities." That target will be outdated pretty soon, since Kyoto expires in 2012.

Meanwhile, many bills have been advanced in Congress that set various standards for carbon reductions for the entire country, principally through cap & trade schemes. Some estimated greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets under the bills (relative to the 1990 baseline established at the UN Earth Summit in 1992), rounded since I'm reading off a graph:

Business-as-usual: +66% in 2030, +113% in 2050
McCain-Lieberman: -23% in 2030, -60% in 2050
Kerry-Snowe: (same as McCain-Lieberman, but on glide path rather than stepped)
Bingaman-Specter: +0% in 2030, -50% in 2050
Lieberman-Warner: -16% in 2030, -65% in 2050
US-CAP proposal: -9% to -30% in 2030, -50% to -73% in 2050
Sanders-Boxer: -25% in 2030, -80% in 2050

Perhaps a framework for a 2030 Challenge would be for individual cities to reduce their overall emissions by XX% and transportation emissions by YY% by 2030 -- let's go with the aggressive US-CAP proposal of 30% by 2030. It's a solid, performance-based goal that can easily envelop the 2030 Challenge for Architecture, and "extend" a challenge like Cool Cities that currently has no goals past 2012.

P.S. The yawning gap between BAU and even the most conservative of the proposals by 2050 shows just how huge of a change we're going to have to see during my lifetime; I'll be 70 in 2050.


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