Decarbonizing the Built Environment, Deeper and Wider
October 2023 | announcements
Architecture 2030 delegates are gearing up to attend COP28 in Dubai this November, planning messaging for the world stage focused on Decarbonizing the Built Environment, Deeper and Wider:
While significant progress has been made on reducing the carbon emitted from building operations, those advances have focused primarily on new buildings through a Global North bias, missing important mitigation opportunities. What comes next? Taking a more holistic, culturally expansive view reveals significant untapped potential to reduce emissions in the way we design the built world.
Subthemes to be promoted by A2030 delegates include:
Beyond buildings: decarbonization’s next frontier
Infrastructure, landscapes planning offer untapped potential to reduce emissions and lean into nature.
Indigenous knowledge: scaling up low-carbon traditions
Heritage and indigenous building forms and materials provide carbon and equity benefits at scale.
Existing buildings: reuse, upgrade, and renovate as climate action
The greenest building is the one that is already built.
Construction materials: attacking embodied carbon
Lower carbon, nature-based, and alternative building materials, right-sizing, and material efficiency radically decrease up-front embodied carbon.
In her recent article in ARCHITECT Magazine, Architecture 2030 Senior Fellow Lisa Richmond discusses these themes, and the organization’s goals for COP28, in more detail:
By Lisa Richmond featured in ARCHITECT
The AEC industry has made significant progress toward reducing the energy that buildings use and the carbon they emit. In a 2023 article for ARCHITECT, Architecture 2030 founder Ed Mazria, FAIA, examined a 2022 U.S. Energy Information Administration study and highlighted promising decarbonization trends in the built environment, including the decoupling of emissions and building sector growth.
But we can improve only what we measure, and we haven’t been measuring enough. Operating emissions, while still critically important, represent only a fraction of a building’s total carbon impact. A recent paper released by Seattle-based LMN Architects states: “Net Zero Carbon claims … may include only a 25% or 50% reduction toward carbon neutrality when a full scope is included. Even advanced rating systems exclude important emissions sources.”
It’s time to broaden our scope and think more holistically. Architecture 2030 delegates are taking this message to the United Arab Emirates for this year’s United Nations COP28 in Dubai, an annual climate summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. With its influential global audience of world leaders, policy makers, NGOs, and private-sector thought leaders, COP is a ready-made platform for design practitioners hoping to redefine progress in decarbonizing the built environment.