How we plan and design the built environment from here on out will determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic.

Over the next twenty years, an area equal to a staggering 3.5 times the entire built environment of the U.S. will be redesigned, reshaped, and rebuilt globally. If all these buildings are designed and constructed using traditional inefficient approaches, and are powered by electricity produced by burning fossil fuels, there is no way to avoid irreparably damaging the planet’s climate.

However, if we use energy efficient design strategies, incorporate including on-site power generation from renewable sources, and have access to off-site renewables if necessary, then the building sector can become the solution to the climate change crisis.

Getting to Zero

Getting to carbon neutral for a new building or major renovation is a two-step process.

The first step is design; to integrate sustainable and passive design strategies that are low-cost or no-cost. This can get you 70-80% of the way there. For example, how you orient the building, shade the glass, incorporate daylighting and passive heating and cooling strategies, and the materials and systems you specify. These approaches dramatically reduce the energy the building requires.

The second step is to provide fossil-fuel-free energy; ideally from on-site renewables, or from accessing district or utility-scale renewable energy produced off-site.

What you can do

There are a range of things Architecture 2030 can help you with: If you’re an architect, planner, or work in the building sector you should learn more about adopting the 2030 Challenge as an individual or on behalf of a firm or organization.

To help you meet the 2030 Challenge, the 2030 Palette offers a practical guide to low carbon resilient design from the regional level down to individual building elements.

If you’re an architect and need to improve your low carbon design skills with in-person instruction through your AIA Chapter, the AIA+2030 Professional Development Series might be for you.

If you’re a property owner, planner, local government policy maker, developer or community stakeholder looking to meet the 2030 Challenge for Planning for your area, explore the 2030 Districts program.

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