Earlier this week I spent three days, Monday-Wednesday, at the GlassBuild America show in Atlanta. The event is primarily geared toward those in the glass industry–glass shops, window companies, etc., but there were a few architects in attendance as well. As part of the conference this year the program included an Architects’ Forum, which was created to provide architects with information and education about glass and glazing. There were discussions about solar glazing and photovoltaic, interesting architectural projects, testing, etc. But it was the day’s final presentation that really got me thinking.

The speaker was architect Ed Mazria who wrote The Passive Solar Energy Book in 1979. He has a long history as an architect, but currently is focused on his work with Architecture 2030, a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization, he established in 2002 that’s working to (as it states on the website) “transform the U.S. and global Building Sector from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate change, energy consumption, and economic crises. Our goal is straightforward: to achieve a dramatic reduction in the climate-change-causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the Building Sector by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed and constructed.”

I will be the first to admit, I’m no tree hugger, but I do what I can to be a good steward of the environment. Still, I thought Mazria made some interesting points. Looking back at the history of architecture and how advanced some of today’s designs are, Mazria said much has been made possible by all of the sophisticated design tools we have today that allow architects to design any form or shape. These designs have all been made possible, he said, due to inventions … extracting coal, oil, natural gases … transporting them all over the world … burning fuels in plants … and what it comes down to, he says, is the building sector consumes 49 percent of all energy produced in the United States. What is the cost of all the amazing buildings and architecture we have today, he asked? Mazria believes that the way architecture is designed and built today must change in order to reduce the causes of climate change.

Architecture 2030’s “2030 Challenge,” launched in 2006 is a global initiative that calls for all new buildings and major renovations to reduce their fossil-fuel GHG-emitting energy consumption by 50 percent immediately, gradually increasing this reduction so that by 2030 all new buildings would be carbon neutral.

Is this possible? Many different groups and organizations, such as the USGBC, ASHRAE and a lot more, are behind this, adopting these targets and are working in this direction.

But seriously, what do YOU think? What are the changes we need to make and what have you done as an architect to do your part? Will baby steps get us there or are we too late for those and really need everyone to take one giant step forward?