Energy Evolution: June 2, 2008
2030 Challenge Aims To Reduce Buildings' GHG Emissions
Groups representing architects in Canada and the United States have joined forces to push for the design of new buildings in the two countries that by 2030 will use 90% less energy and emit 90% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than existing buildings.
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) has joined the American Institute of Architects (AIA), along with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), the U.S. Conference of Mayors and more than 650 U.S. cities in supporting the initiative, which is called the 2030 Challenge.
The Ottawa-based RAIC, which was founded in 1907 and has 3,600 members, including working architects and faculty and graduates of accredited Canadian schools of architecture, signed on to the 2030 Challenge in January 2007, after having had the originator of the concept, California-based architect Edward Mazria, speak at the group’s annual convention, held in Calgary in 2006.
Mazria, the founder of Architecture 2030, the organization that heads the international effort to design more sustainable buildings, is an internationally recognized architect, author and educator.
His architecture and planning projects employ cutting-edge environmental design. His architecture and renewable energy research at the University of New Mexico and the University or Oregon have established his leadership in the field of resource conservation and passive heating, cooling and lighting design. His best known published work, The Passive Solar Energy Book, is currently in use worldwide and his firm, Mazria Inc., has designed a large number of award-winning architecture and planning projects, including the Mt. Airy Public Library in North Carolina and the Rio Grande Botanic Garden Conservatory in New Mexico.
Denise MacDonald, head of communications for the RAIC, says the organization has created a task force to spread the 2030 Challenge message.
In addition, the organization has signed up to participate in Media Wiki, a web-based offshoot of the online encyclopedia, which allows for interaction between participants.
One problem is that membership in RAIC is voluntary, as opposed to the provincial architectural bodies throughout Canada, to which architects working in the provinces must belong.
“Because we’re not a regulatory body, like the provincial organizations, it’s more difficult to get the message out,” she says.
However, RAIC works closely with the provincial bodies and has made all of them aware of the campaign.
“In addition, we do a lot of courses around green building design,” she says.
One other challenge is that building bylaws in Canada are set at the municipal level.
“It’s a challenge that we need to face,” MacDonald says.
It plans to do so by making all municipalities aware of the campaign.
The Architecture 2030 campaign stems from data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which concluded buildings in the U.S. are responsible for 48% of all GHG emissions annually. In addition, the agency concluded that 66% of all electricity generated in U.S. power plants goes to supply power to buildings.
The 2030 Challenge campaign aims to have all new buildings and major renovations reduce their energy use and fossil fuel-based GHG emissions by 50% by 2010 and by 90% by 2030 (compared to a 2005 base year).
“We think GHG emissions from buildings are about the same in Canada,” says MacDonald.
The amount of energy used by Canadian buildings is likely more than in the U.S., given Canada’s colder climate and its vast geography.
MacDonald says architects in Canada already are designing greener buildings, although more can be done. But the biggest deficiency is in the residential sector.
“Most houses aren’t designed by architects, so there’s a need to educate the public as well,” she notes.
MacDonald says the RAIC also supports the move by the Ontario government to eliminate GHG emissions from coal-fired power plants by shutting down the plants, as well as a general shift to more renewable power generation in Canada.
“We want energy that goes to the buildings that architects design to come from clean power plants,” she says.
This stems from the “life-cycle analysis” approach, which tracks all energy use in a building and the sources of that energy, she says.
A new report by the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) -- an international organization created by Canada, Mexico and the United States under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation -- says the 2030 Challenge can be met “provided there is an aggressive market uptake of existing and emerging technologies and construction methods.”
The CEC’s report, Green Building in North America, which modelled two scenarios with energy-saving measures in new and existing buildings in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, compared with a business-as-usual scenario, concluded the 2030 Challenge goals “are achievable technically.” But much work needs to be done.
“To achieve these goals, about 90% of Canadian residential and commercial [buildings] would undergo major renovations or energy retrofits by 2030, while in the U.S. 42% of residential buildings and 61% of commercial buildings would be affected.
The study concluded that Canada’s residential building sector would need to offset 12 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions via onsite renewable energy or by buying clean power to achieve the goal, while the Canadian commercial building sector would need to offset about 11 megatonnes of CO2 emissions through onsite renewable energy or by buying clean power by 2010.
The study assumes that there is a significant shift to the use of onsite solar power by 2030.
The researchers say to achieve the 2030 goal in North America there needs to be heavy government incentives to invest in renewable energy, a shift to state-of-the-art building envelopes is required, as well as a shift to energy-efficient heating, air conditioning and appliances. They also say “energy prices that reflect the full societal costs of energy supply” are needed.
In addition, the study calls for a ramp up in research and development projects in North America aimed at achieving the 2030 Challenge goal.