While politicians in Washington, D.C., debate whether or not the U.S. should try to address global warming, architects and contractors are taking steps to do just that.

Much of the action is based on the challenge developed by New Mexico architect Ed Mazria and adopted by the American Institute of Architects in 2005. The initiative, explained at www.architecture2030.org, states that although transportation and manufacturing are the most-talked-about producers of greenhouses gases, “buildings are the major source of demand” for energy and materials that produce greenhouse gases. The goal of the initiative is to keep global warming to one degree Celsius above today's level.

To accomplish that, Mazria has issued the “2030 Challenge,” asking the global architecture and building community to adopt the following targets:

  • Designing all new buildings and developments using half the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume (half the country average for that building type).
  • Ensuring that annually, at least half of the existing building area be renovated to reduce by 50% the amount of fossil fuel energy currently being consumed (through design, purchase of renewable energy, and/or the application of renewable technologies).
  • Increasing the fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings to: 60% in 2010; 70% in 2015; 80% in 2020; and 90% in 2025.

  • By undertaking these challenges, the country would be carbon-neutral (using no fossil fuel greenhouse gas-emitting energy to operate) by 2030.

    One builder accepting this challenge is Dennis Allen, of Allen Associates, in Santa Barbara, Calif. “It really grabbed our attention,” Allen says of Mazria's challenge.

    To create green projects that require less energy to build and operate, Allen says, “Green features must be designed into the project, not tacked on as an afterthought.

    In one recent remodel of a 1950s home, his company opened up a south-facing wall with French doors to allow for solar heat gain, blew Icynene insulation into existing walls, added a radiant barrier to the roof sheathing, and installed a double layer of 5/8-inch drywall.

    “The real challenge,” Allen says of remodels that reduce energy consumption, “is how to get good insulation.” —Kathy Price-Robinson has been writing about remodeling since 1989. She can be reached at www.kathyprice.com.

    Source: Mazria Inc. 2005 (Assumes a 15% embodied energy reduction in the construction of new buildings.)