Tuesday, March 17, 2020

CarbonPositive '20 Conference & Expo

March 2-4, 2020 | Los Angeles, CA

Hosted by Architecture 2030 and Hanley Woods

by Henry Siegel, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal

The International Conference and Expo provided a “how-to” for rapidly implementing a carbon positive future through mainstream global planning and building design, practice and policy. Sessions, speakers and exhibitors showcased innovative construction and building materials, advanced technologies, design and planning tools, and practices and policies that dramatically reduce urban development, building sector, and embodied carbon emissions to deliver rapid and pragmatic results.

Ed Mazria, the founder of Architecture 2030, kicked off the CarbonPositive '20 Conference by simultaneously looking forward and backward.

Looking forward, Ed reported that it is now projected that we will build 2.4 trillion square feet of buildings worldwide between now and 2060. That is doubling the amount of square footage worldwide today! If we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees (C) we need to be far more aggressive about our carbon emission reduction goals – achieving a 65% reduction by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 rather than 2050.

Looking backward, there is encouraging news that we can build on to achieve these aggressive goals – proof that emissions and growth are “decoupling:” economic and population growth continues on an upward trend worldwide while energy use and emissions are going down. For example, from 1995 to 2005:
  • GDP grew by nearly 44%
  • Floor area by 23%
  • Energy use and emissions both increased by 20%.

From 2005 to 2019 that trend changed:
  • GDP grew by 26%
  • Floor area increased by 18%
  • Energy use decreased by nearly 2%
  • Emissions decreased by 21%.

Ed also addressed existing buildings, not just new construction. In most US cities 2% of the buildings -- the taller buildings in downtowns -- are responsible for between 45% to 50% of all building CO2 emissions for their cities. He presented policy ideas to incentivize and later require that these large buildings upgrade their performance quickly.

And finally, he addressed embodied carbon, noting that the embodied carbon of the core and shell of new buildings, not counting interior finishes and furniture, account for 11% of global emissions. Over the next 10 years, embodied emissions for new buildings will account for 75% of their total emissions, and he noted that as operating efficiency improves, embodied carbon will become a bigger and bigger problem. We need to reduce embodied carbon in buildings on the same schedule -- 65% by 2030, and 0% by 2040. Those are very challenging targets. Much of the rest of the conference focused on specific strategies for reducing embodied carbon -- reusing buildings and materials, improving material efficiency and building with materials that sequester carbon.

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