Saturday, February 24, 2007

Welcome to the future.

I have been hammering away at the idea of addressing global warming by making changes to our local community development regulations, especially building codes. The way to do that is through local planning commissions, one place where local individuals have a chance to make a difference and where a political party with little or no power (not having many elected officials) can leverage their limited power through public advocacy to make change happen.

The problem is very well defined on the web site of Architecture 2030, a project sponsored by the non-profit organization New Energy Economy.
Two profound, life changing events are converging to create the most significant crisis of modern time— the warming of the earth’s atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, and the rapid depletion of global petroleum and natural gas reserves. As these events intensify over the coming years, they will dramatically change how we live and how we relate to the natural world.- Architecture 2030.
While the media gives us talking head focusing on the transportation sector, New Energy Technologies is talking about policies that promote high performance buildings. If you had followed the link for Architecture 2030 above, you would have seen that the building sector requires 76% of our electrical energy consumption just for building operations... not including industrial production. If we are going to address the problem of global warming in any reasonable time frame, it must focus on the building sector. New Energy Economy made that point.

The American Institute of Architects, a 74,000-member organization, recently declared that to meet our responsibility in keeping global warming under 2°C we must adopt the following goals:

  • All new buildings, developments and major renovation projects should be designed to use half the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume by 2010.
  • By 2030 buldings should be carbon neutral, meaning they will use no fossil fuel energy to operate.
Architects will only design to the requirements of their clients. Developers will only develop what they can make a profit on. We must give both the incentives to follow the AIA guidance. That means making fundamental changes to building codes, not in a prescriptive manner, but as a performance requirement. If we do not, then we will always hear that "Green Buildings are too expensive." Tell architects to innovate and they will do it.

The Eco-Action Commmittee of the Green Party US, lost a vocal activist over the failure of the party to take on the question of carbon taxes in an active, aggressive manner. The rest of us need to stay the course and work at the level where we can accomplish something, our own home towns. We dare not allow the developer community to steamroll this effort.

I am scheduling time with my local planning commission on March 13, 2007. I will present a formal request that the planning commission adopt the AIA guidelines as requirements for all projects. Acting now, we can be ready to implement by 2010. Delay this to 2010 and we may not like the consequences.

Welcome to the future. We are building it now.

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