2030 Planning Challenge
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.
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