In a speech this week at New York University School of Law, former Vice President Al Gore expounded on the message of his latest documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” by highlighting a public policy of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and an AIA partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors as examples of significant energy reduction initiatives that advocate “all new buildings be carbon neutral by 2030, using zero fossil fuels to operate.”
The AIA policy promotes sustainable design and resource conservation practices for architects to achieve a minimum reduction of fifty percent of the current consumption level of fossil fuels used to construct and operate buildings by the year 2010. Subsequent targets each year thereafter will result in the design and construction of carbon neutral buildings by 2030.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar policy statement and is partnering with the AIA to promote this 2030 goal to mayors across the country by providing a tool kit for elected leaders that will help them develop local programs and regulations resulting in carbon neutral buildings as commonplace in their communities.
Vice President Gore said of the initiatives, “As an example of their potential, the American Institute of Architects and the National Conference of Mayors have endorsed the ‘2030 Challenge,’ asking the global architecture and building community to immediately transform building design to require that all new buildings and developments be designed to use one half the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume for each building type, and that all new buildings be carbon neutral by 2030, using zero fossil fuels to operate.”
“Vice President Gore’s recognition of the AIA and its policies is a tremendous step in the right direction and will help us achieve our goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions from buildings,” said RK Stewart, FAIA, chair of the AIA Sustainability Summit Task Force. “Buildings are the true sleeping giant in the challenge to affect measurable reduction in the causes of global warming. The design, construction and operation of buildings accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for three quarters of all U.S. electricity generation.”
Because of their shared energy reduction goals, the AIA and the U.S. Conference of Mayors will promote integrated/high performance building design to encourage all of our nation’s Mayors to take a strong stance in favor of sustainability by adopting practices that meet the 2030 reduction goals in their own communities. The toolkit for mayors provides an overview of green building related issues, contains model legislative language that can be modified for quick implementation, and provides real world examples of what other communities are already doing.
Stewart added, “With the amount of new building construction and renovations projected to occur over the next twenty years, we are at a tipping point in determining whether the buildings that will stand for the next fifty or hundred years will be designed and built in a manner that will be part of a solution to reduce global warming. All design and construction professionals should realize their role in creating a built environment that can co-exist ecologically with the natural environment. ”
The design of more energy efficient buildings is a crucial step in addressing dangerous global warming and through this initiative eco-friendly design must become the norm rather than the exception. In order to accomplish this goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the AIA will collaborate with other national and international organizations, the scientific research community, and the public health community. As part of its policy, the AIA will also develop and promote the integration of sustainability into the curriculum for the education of architects and architecture students, so that this core principle becomes a guiding mindset for current and future architects.
Fundamental to helping ensure actual results, the AIA also supports the development and use of rating systems and standards that promote the design and construction of communities and buildings that contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.