Green Building

Architecture 2030's Mazria calls for increased building efficiency to combat warming

With buildings in the United States accounting for more than 40% of our nation's energy use, members of Congress are beginning to focus on how to improve building efficiency to help combat warming. During today's OnPoint, Edward Mazria, executive director of Architecture 2030, a New Mexico-based non profit organization, explains his group's 2030 initiative that calls for all buildings to be net-zero carbon emitters by the year 2030. Mazria assesses Congressional action on green building and discusses what, he believes, the next steps should be for policy-makers in terms of mandates and codes for sustainable design. He also responds to criticism of his plan to combat warming through efficiency and a moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Edward Mazria, executive director of Architecture 2030, a nonprofit organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ed, thanks for coming on the show.

Edward Mazria: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: Ed, your nonprofit focuses on promoting sustainable design and architecture and one of the things that you lobbied for hard last year was eventually included in the energy bill and that's the 2030 Blueprint. Explain what this initiative is all about and what the various steps are.

Edward Mazria: Sure. We're a research organization. We deal with the building sector, climate change, and energy. And why climate change in energy in the building sector, because we find that the building sector is responsible for almost half of all the energy we consume in this country and almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, 43 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in this country come from just operating buildings. So, we see that the building sector is the big problem when it comes to climate change and it's also a part of the solution. So, what was included in the energy bill was that all federal buildings now would meet the, what we call, the 2030 challenge targets. They actually went a little bit further, a 55 percent reduction in the energy consumption of all new and renovated federal buildings by the year 2010, going to carbon neutral, meaning no fossil fuel, greenhouse gas emitting energy consumed by the year 2030. And that's what the 2030 challenge is, it's 50 percent reduction today, going to carbon neutral by 2030.

Monica Trauzzi: Talk a bit about how you got started in the sustainable design movement, because you were a successful architect running your own company, but now you've turned your focus to this nonprofit organization. Why? Why was it necessary?

Edward Mazria: Well, we got started in the 70s during the first energy crisis and, at that time, we were looking at the building sector also as a major energy consuming sector and we wanted to reduce consumption in that sector, so we were designing buildings that were very, very efficient. In fact, what's interesting is between 1973 and 1983 we added 30 to 40 billion square feet of building to our building stock in this country, put 35 million new cars on the road and reduced our energy consumption over that 11 year period, our total energy consumption by 2 quad trillion Btus, which is just a unit of energy. So what happened was -- so we got started way back then, and now, when we have another energy and greenhouse gas emissions crises, we began looking at the sector again and were surprised to see the amount of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to our sector. And that's when we started 2030 and began looking at solving at least our portion of the problem that way.

Monica Trauzzi: So, your organization says that by following the 2030 Blueprint and boosting building efficiency, things will be great for the economy, that this will help the economy. But, in addition to calling for building efficiency, you're also calling for a moratorium on the construction on coal-fired power plants.

Edward Mazria: Right.

Monica Trauzzi: This would concern many.

Edward Mazria: Right.

Monica Trauzzi: Wouldn't that devastate the economies of many states?

Edward Mazria: Well, let's talk about coal first. Why coal? Why a moratorium on coal? If we look at the three fossil fuels that we have, we have oil, natural gas, and coal, and coal's twin sisters, oil shale and tar sands, but you need cheap coal to get those two other energy sources out of the ground, because they're very, very poor energy content. So why coal? Well, oil is peaking right now globally and we see the price going up and when you get over the peak you produce less and less and the price goes up and up and alternatives look really good and gas is not far behind. The peak of gas is not far behind oil. So, when you look at the amount of reserves left you can't fuel global warming with oil and gas. We're just not going to use up that much of it because the price will become astronomical. The only fossil fuel that we have left to fuel global warming is coal and we have a lot of it. So, if we want to get a handle on greenhouse gas emissions and get to the reduction targets that the scientists are projecting that we need to get to, we basically have to cap coal, cap greenhouse gas emissions from conventional coal plants right about now. And begin a reduction to phase out conventional coal by about the year 2030 in order to meet the greenhouse gas reduction target. So, we have to replace it obviously.

Monica Trauzzi: Replace it with what?

Edward Mazria: Well, there are a number of things out there. We hear about clean coal all the time, replacing conventional coal was clean coal. We hear about replacing it with nuclear. And our position is to replace it with building efficiency and the 2030 challenge targets.

Monica Trauzzi: Yeah, but you can't possibly meet all of the nation's energy demands through building efficiency.

Edward Mazria: Well, we call it building efficiency and the 2030 targets, which are going to carbon neutral. That doesn't mean that buildings don't use energy. They're always going to use energy, but you can reduce energy consumption by 50, 60, 70, 80 percent just through design strategies. And then you can supply the rest, which is a fairly small amount, with renewables. So, let's just look at that. We know, for example, that there are lots of design decisions that influence energy consumption in the building sector, like where you locate a building, the shape, the orientation, how much glass you use, whether you shade it or not, the colors, natural ventilation, day lighting systems, passive solar heating and cooling centers, an infinite number of ways to reduce consumption and to actually supply energy to a building. And then, when we get that reduction down by 50, 60, 70, 80 percent, we can supply the rest with renewables. We measured that against coal with carbon capture and sequestration actually producing more energy and nuclear energy. So, just to give you an example, we produce about 12 1/2 quads of energy, electrical energy in this country by coal and natural gas mostly, coal and natural gas. If we want to replace coal, to replace a quad, a produced quad of energy using carbon capture and sequestration at today's prices, if we use just FutureGen as an example and what that price was, 1.8 billion for 275 megawatts. If we want to phase out a quad of coal, or that amount of coal, it would cost us about $256 billion to replace it with carbon capture and sequestration. If we wanted to use nuclear power at about 6 billion a thousand megawatt plant, and that's without, for example, land costs and stuff, it would cost about 222 billion. We know that it would cost about 42.1 million to produce a quad or reduce a quad of energy in the building sector through efficiency.

Monica Trauzzi: So, just to be clear, are you not in support of moving forward with carbon capture and storage technology then?

Edward Mazria: We don't really have a position on that. We need to cap emissions now and begin reductions now. That technology is, by the industry's own understanding, is 15 to 20 years out. In 15 to 20 years we'll see what that technology is like and what the cost is. But we need to cap emissions now in the building sector and get on with reductions to phase out conventional, dirty coal between now and 2030.

Monica Trauzzi: I just want to discuss the politics of what you're suggesting for a moment.

Edward Mazria: Sure.

Monica Trauzzi: You know, especially in a year like this year, there's a presidential election. You would be hard-pressed to find a presidential candidate who would be willing to place a moratorium on coal. That could be devastating politically.

Edward Mazria: Well, you have the demand side and the supply side. The supply side is, are we going to increase the demand side so we need more coal? Basically a moratorium is capping the demand side so that you don't need more coal. Whether they call for one or not, if we can cap the demand side, then we've capped the need for coal generated electricity and that's where the 2030 targets come in. We're calling for a 50 percent reduction of all new renovated buildings, of major renovations, you renovate down to 50 percent. We renovate as much as we build new in this country, so if we renovate down 50 percent, we make room for 50 percent of new buildings without increasing demand at all. So, we effectively have a moratorium if we implement the 2030 targets.

Monica Trauzzi: So, what's the next step in terms of federal legislation and do you think there's enough attention being put on building efficiency in Congress?

Edward Mazria: Well, right now, no. The 2030 challenge targets have been adopted. We issued it in 2006. It's been adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, many professional organizations. Four states have adopted it, California, Minnesota, Illinois, and New Mexico. California now, for all buildings, the California Energy Commission adopted it and actually even going one step further and calling for net zero energy buildings in the residential sector by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030. And the feds have adopted it for federal buildings. We need a national energy conservation code standard that's updated. We have one, but it's a very poor standard right now. We need it updated to the 2030 targets, to carbon neutral by 2030. If the feds do that and then put in about, we're calling for a $21.6 billion investment by the federal government each year in efficiency, that would squeeze quite a bit of energy out of the building sector and basically eliminate the need for new coal-fired plants, conventional plants.

Monica Trauzzi: Final question here, we're almost out of time. What do you see as the top three challenges facing the green building industry over the next decade?

Edward Mazria: Well, the green building industry is exploding and because we need to cap emissions and begin reducing emissions, there's going to be huge demands placed on the green building movement. So the biggest challenge is to ramp up as quickly as possible to get the products out there. We have the products. Everything is available off-the-shelf right now and so the key is to keep production and to get people trained for new jobs in that industry.

Monica Trauzzi: Is cost a concern?

Edward Mazria: Cost is actually -- to implement the first 50 percent target, which is about only 30 percent below our current codes, that costs about, in residential sectors, about a dollar, a dollar and a half up to two dollars a square foot at the most. And the return on the investment pays back over a few years in terms of energy savings. And then it goes on saving and saving and saving.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. We're going to end it right there on that note. Thanks for coming on the show.

Edward Mazria: Okay, great. Thank you for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: This is OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Thanks for watching.

[End of Audio]



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