OP-ED: Architects called to action in global emergency

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By Marc Whitman

As you all know, I have always been a proponent of green building and living with nature. The carbon produced from the construction and operations of our buildings contributes to 40% of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

This has resulted in an imbalance with nature that is causing unprecedented climate disasters.

We have seen climate catastrophes fi rsthand with the Thomas Fire, but these disasters are just a prelude of much greater things to come, unless we take drastic measures.

The California American Institute of Architects has just announced a climate emergency.

They are calling to action all AIA architects with the following:

• Actively support Gov. Gavin Newsom’s goals of statewide carbon neutrality by 2035, rather than 2045, and an increase in grid-based renewable energy to 90% by 2030.

• Advocate for accelerated electrification of all new residential and commercial buildings in the state with a target of 2022.

• Advocate for a phase-out of fossil-fuel appliances in all existing buildings starting in 2021.

• Advocate for accelerated revisions to the California Building Code and Title 24 to require that all new commercial buildings be zero net carbon, with a target of 2022.

• Housing is a human right. Advocate for affordable, healthy, zerocarbon housing for all citizens.

• Promote policy changes that encourage adaptive reuse of existing structures over new construction.

• Water is one of our most precious resources. Promote new watersaving practices and technologies.

• Rapidly expand zero-carbon design literacy among architects and the public across California.

• Promote the reduction of embodied carbon in key building materials such as concrete, steel and aluminum.

• Develop a California Guide to Resilient Design of buildings, communities and cities.

The AIA has moved the goal of being Carbon Neutral by 2030 to be Carbon Neutral in the next two years.

I believe we need to make a major shift in the ways we do things in order to meet this goal.

As a member of the AIA Committee on the Environment, I am proposing a requirement for all our future projects to be carbon neutral. I believe this can be achieved by:

1. Energy efficiency

2. Solar voltaic offsets

3. Passive solar designs

4. Locally sourced materials

5. Specify low-carbon and carbon-positive materials and avoid high-carbon materials such as steel and aluminum

6. All-electric appliances (no gas) 7. the purchasing of carbon offsets or carbon credits to achieve carbon neutrality.

— Marc Whitman of Ojai is a member of the American Institute of Architects, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.


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