By 2014, the architecture profession had embraced the radical decarbonization of the built environment outlined by Architecture 2030 criteria and showcased Ed Mazria, FAIA as the keynote speaker at the national convention that year as an industry game-changer. Its ZERO Code is a pathway to zero net carbon buildings and has now been fully embraced by the AIA. At the same time, the International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress, member organizations representing over 1.3 million architects in 124 countries worldwide unanimously adopted the 2050 Imperative, a declaration to eliminate CO2 emissions in the built environment by 2050
Meanwhile Mazria, who has become something of a building-sector Al Gore, appearing at global conferences with pie-chart slides, says he believes another industry-wide strategy could curb carbon emissions even faster than policy. “Twenty percent of all the construction in the world is influenced by a small percentage of AEC firms. That’s where the power is,” he says.
Mazria praises the precision of the global building sector, which has managed to reduce carbon emissions since 2015 even while floor area has expanded. That success story has been under reported, partly because the world is understandably more focused on record-breaking overall carbon emissions in 2017 and 2018. But Mazria believes AEC firm leaders could flip the graph during the next few critical years. He’s focusing on relationships with CEOs at the AIA’s Large First Round Table, a group that meets twice a year. Nearly all those firms have signed on to the 2030 Commitment, which, since these giant firms bill internationally, has a global impact. Mazria has brokered carbon neutrality commitments from CEOs at major AEC firms in other countries too, including China. “We understand the issue. We’ve had an awakening,” says Mazria. “Now we just have to be very, very aggressive. If we don’t solve it, it doesn’t get solved. It’s as simple as that.”
Recently the AIA has formally set out specific policies to provide a framework for the AIA to prioritize and support urgent climate action to exponentially accelerate the “decarbonization” of buildings, the building sector, and the built environment.
On the first day of the AIA Conference on Architecture on June 10 of this year, a Resolution passed -- overwhelmingly -- for AIA to:
- declare an urgent climate imperative for carbon reduction
- transform the day-to-day practice of architects to achieve a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient and healthy built environment
- leverage support of our peers, clients, policy makers, and the public at large.
But this is not a proposed solution. It is a call for action.The membership has spoken and the imperative is clear.This means not only a major change in practice, but also a cultural change.
There is big work ahead.
Update 7/19/19: AIA COTE in conversation with Paul Hawken, Director of Project Drawdown
Update 8/11/19: Achieving Zero Framework: Phasing out CO2 emissions in the urban built environment by mid-century
Update 8/12/19: Why Cities Matter: Global Covenant of Mayors
Update 9/20/19: AIA announces Big Move Toward Environmental Stewardship
Update 9/21/19: Where we stand: Climate Action
Update 9/25/19: On September 4 in Pittsburgh the AIA Board ratified Resolution 19-11
Update 10/7/19: We are in the midst of a climate emergency and timing is everything.
Update 11/12/19: Mazria - Impact that the architecture and building industries could be having on climate change.