“Try to guess the fraction of US air pollution that comes from each of these three groups: Industry, Transportation, and Buildings.” This is the challenge a Construction Citizen staff member put to nearly two dozen interviewees from a large variety of disciplines and spread across three generations. All 20 of these men and women were university-educated, and considered by our staff member to be intelligent. The average of their guesses is probably not too different from your own; the public perception of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions varies very little from one person to the next.
Unfortunately, this means that almost everyone is wrong together.
According to a 2009 study made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the building sector (residential + commercial) contributes 46.9% of the CO2 emitted within the United States. This is largely because of the energy these buildings consume and the CO2 emitted in the manufacture of that energy. And industry, the group blamed the most by the interviewees? By no small margin the least of these three contributors to greenhouse gases and climate change.
Herein lies the opportunity for positive change: if buildings are the problem, buildings are also the solution; over the next 25 years, 75% of the building sector will be either newly built or refurbished. Taking advantage of this opportunity is the goal of Architecture 2030, a non-profit research organization established in response to the climate change problem by architect Edward Mazria in 2002. Their website states: “By meeting the energy reduction targets of the 2030 Challenge, building sector professionals can dramatically reduce U.S. and global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) over the next twenty years and beyond.”
Whether or not you agree with the arguments about climate change, the future of building certainly lies in reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Forward thinking owners and developers are looking to leave their footprint, but not a carbon one.