Post Carbon Cities

Skip to content



Cracking the (building) codes to meet greenhouse limits
Published 23 June 2008 by Architecture 2030 (original article)

This week, Architecture 2030 released an unprecedented guide for every city, county and state in the nation to swiftly meet their greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets through existing building codes, asserting that meeting reduction targets through existing codes is the critical ‘missing piece’ to getting major reductions underway immediately.

Published 23 June 2008 by Architecture 2030,

[Read the report or Ed Mazria's excellent essay on Grist, Your city council could save the world. -Ed.]

In a major announcement today, Architecture 2030 released an unprecedented and much anticipated guide for every city, county and state in the nation to swiftly meet their greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets through existing building codes. Architecture 2030 is the non-profit research organization that issued the 2030 Challenge, the widely adopted plan for dramatically reducing GHG emissions in the Building Sector. Published in a new white paper, titled "Meeting the 2030 Challenge Through Building Codes", a single chart provides the key to deciphering various building energy codes and standards as they relate to the immediate 50% reduction target called for in the 2030 Challenge.

According to Edward Mazria, executive director of Architecture 2030, "meeting reduction targets through existing codes is the critical ‘missing piece’ to getting major reductions underway immediately." Michelle Wyman, executive director of the US branch of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, an international membership association of over 700 local governments, agrees. "Mayors have unanimously adopted the 2030 Challenge and have been eager to implement it. Being able to do so through existing building energy codes will allow them to move much more quickly with strong, measurable reductions in building emissions," she said.

More and more governments and professionals across the US are looking to the 2030 Challenge as an effective way to tame the excessive CO2 emissions of the Building Sector. Buildings are the major contributor to climate change, being responsible for almost half of all US energy consumption and GHG emissions. The 2030 Challenge calls for a 50% reduction in energy consumption, including fossil fuel, GHG emitting energy, of all new buildings and major renovations by 2010, and for incrementally increasing the reduction every five years, so that all new buildings are carbon neutral by 2030.

The urgent need for a code-based approach prompted Architecture 2030 to develop ‘code equivalents’, which are the additional reductions needed beyond the requirements of a particular code, standard or rating system to meet or exceed the initial 50% target of the 2030 Challenge. These code equivalents can be easily incorporated into existing codes by ordinance.

Ken Colburn is Senior Consultant for the Center for Climate Strategies, a non-profit organization that has worked with more than 20 states to design, launch, and successfully manage the creation of comprehensive state climate action plans that significantly reduce GHG emissions. According to Colburn, "By comparing current building codes to the level of greenhouse gas reductions called for by the global scientific community to stem global warming, Architecture 2030 has taken a giant step toward delivering those very reductions."

R.K. Stewart, 2007 president of the American Institute of Architects, the first organization to adopt the 2030 Challenge, also expressed the importance of Architecture 2030’s white paper. "Using the recommendations offered in this white paper to improve energy performance beyond current regulations and standards will enable us to act both decisively and immediately to bring energy use in the Building Sector under control."

Architecture 2030 believes that states, local governments and professional organizations are the real heroes on climate change. "They have taken the lead on addressing this crisis. We are excited to be able to provide them with such a useful and powerful tool for making the 2030 Challenge a reality in their communities," said Mazria.

The success of the 2030 Challenge is attributed to the fact that it can be implemented immediately, it spawns the creation of many new, local, permanent jobs and it is much more cost effective than other approaches, such as nuclear and coal with carbon capture and storage. Architecture 2030 released its own study, ‘The 2030 Blueprint’, last month, providing a side-by-side analysis of various approaches to emissions reductions, showing unequivocally that building energy efficiency via the 2030 Challenge is the clear winner.

Architecture 2030 is not the only group coming to this conclusion. According to Coburn, "In state after state, analyses by the Center for Climate Strategies, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, McKinsey & Company, and others demonstrate that steps to achieve substantial greenhouse gas reductions from residential, commercial, and industrial buildings are not only possible, they are available today and can provide significant net cost savings, more jobs, and other economic benefits where implemented."

FAIR USE / FAIR DEALING NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to advance understanding of certain public interest issues per the 'fair use' provision of United States Copyright Law section 107 and the 'fair dealing' exception of Canadian Copyright Act section 29.

© 2009 Post Carbon Institute

Post Carbon Cities: Helping local governments understand and respond to the challenges of peak oil and global warming.
Post Carbon Cities is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization incorporated in the United States.