Ed Mazria at CPP

[Live blog notes from Ed Mazria's appearance at Cal Poly Pomona's
University Theatre on April 6th, 2012]

The next built environment today

Ed Mazria is a hero of mine, and I always try to catch his talks when he swings through. I’ve been wondering when there will be a ‘Landscape 2030’ or ‘Urbanism 2030’ to augment his work with Architecture 2030. So I’ll find out what his latest thinking is today.

10:16 – intro by Prof. Pablo Laroche. [the images will be re-arranged as the talk unfolds]

EM -you are about to be the most important group on the planet. What design is, thanks to a lecture by Louis Kahn at Pratt in 1959. In the lecture Kahn drew different things with both hands – wrote ‘silence’ to ‘light’ -“at the threshold of this crossing is Design (a calling on nature).” space time and the environment in the 1950s. We’ve tripled our consumption of fossil fuels since the 1950s, and taken silence out of the equation, to focus on space and form.

Marrakesh aerial photo – showing pre-industrial city – the urban fabric that had to work. dry climate that cools down – so buildings capture the cool air that settles into the fabric – pre-vehicle streets – the buildings shade each other. the masonry is a heat sink. all the buildings are square donuts – floor plates are narrow to allow daylighting. courtyards are intensely planted [image of courtyard]

[Vienna aerial photo] – streets are wide to allow sun light, but buildings are similar pattern to Marrakesh – no planting in courtyards to allow light and heat to get into buildings. narrow high windows – the longer the light throw/deeper the floor plates.  [circles church on the photo]

[Toronto flat iron bldg 1891] and now same image today – with conditioned space, architecture changes into big bulky masses that require lots of energy to inhabit.

Industrial revolution: +/- 1780

Crystal Palace (1851 Joseph Paxton) – first use modern materials but unconditioned. 1857 steam heating and the radiator are invented. 1882 Pearl Street P0wer Station by Thomas Edison. 1902 Willis Carrier invents air conditioning. 1908-1927 Ford Model T – so cities and towns start to sprawl. 1925 Bauhaus Dessau – structure moves inside, curtain walls offer flexibiluty.

CIAM 1928 – 1959 reacting to squalid housing conditions around Europe, coal was still major fuel in cities. Athens Charter (modernism is the enemy of sustainability!)

  • function based zones (separated zoning
  • free, efficient circulation
  • high-rise housing blocks

Plus Corb’s ‘Towards a New Architecture, columns, free plan, curtain wall, horizontal windows, roof gardens {the best part] – 1929 Villa Savoy expressed all five points. 1780 – 1932 Phillip Johnson’s international style exhibit arrives in the US.

1935 first highrise – Glaspaleis in Heerien Netherlands (first double wall facade)

1949 Johnson’s Glass house in New Canaan

1952 Lever house

1956 Brasilia – first modern planning

The tools to design were t-square, triangle, compass, french curve, erasing shield… – that’s how we created buildings. Can’t dimension french curves, so few curves got designed – entire world got built using t-square and 45 degree or 30/60 triangle.

20 years back – the computer enters the scene and curves explode – any complex geometry could now be built. Blobs! Gehry, Caltrava, Hadid – ‘Amazing!’

All this was made possible by extracting fossil fuels and transporting the energy across continents and burning it. Coal, Oil, Gas, Uranium made modern architecture and planning possible.  What are implications? The scientists are saying (not the politically spun science to serve agendas on the right or left) – to make informed decisions.

the latest study – fraction of warm days – the planet will really heat up 2081-2100 and get dryer. 25% of all species of plants and animals extinct by 2050 – business as usual. Ice melt has huge geopolitical implications. [now the audience is getting depressed] – the US is a coastal nation with most populations along the coast.

Asked to study Galveston in 2008, then in Houston for Hurricane Ike at USGBC conference. [pictures of Galveston flooded] looked at meter of sea level rise all along coastal US – many places will be completely flooded. Nicholls et al 2007 US has 9 trillion of risk from sea level rise. Only Russia has minimal risk as St. Petersburg is only major coastal city. Arctic sea ice retreat is an economic benefit for Russia – north west passage along Canada is open in 2007.

Russia is getting into the arctic shipping business.

Now 25% of petroleum reserves are in the arctic that are now accessible – Putin is recreating the USSR. Now Exxon has a deal with Russia to drill for oil – this is business as usual. Exxon has been funding the climate denial machine so they can make trillions of dollars that stand to benefit by melting sea ice. So who opted out of the latest climate treaty? Russia, Canada, Japan and the US – too much money could be made even as we suffer.

300-350 ppm CO2

Thanks to James Hansen for defining the safe limits. We created an entire society based on one climate pattern  – the Holocene – now the anthropocene.

The silver bullet – if we phase out traditional coal plants which are so dirty – there is hope. Most plants have limited life span and are about to hit their life expectancy. Keep unconventional fuels in the ground.

Supply and Demand – architecture is the demand side

buildings use 77% of electricity, most comes from coal. so issued the 2030 challenge – reducing demand is only solution to 2030 zero-net energy. Now 2030 Planning challenge to reduce VMT. in 2006 AIA and US Council of Mayors to meet the 2030 targets. the 2007 global emergency teach-in. Even G.W. Bush bought in for Federal buildings. AB32 and the CPUC Zero-Net-Energy for residential by 2020 and commercial by 2030. Most important is that 30 of top AE firms sign on to target.  Smith+ Gill DeCrabonization Plan for Chicago – Seattle 2030 district, now Cleveland 2030 (many of the same property owners as Seattle).

AIA 2030 commitment firms are sending in benchmark data.

Design Future Council Santa Fe Priorities in 2007 getting to carbon neutral. Perkins WIll, DLR, HOK, BNIM et cetera are aiming all projects at carbon neutral. HGA aiming for Zero Plus.

Calthorpe’s Low Carbon City creating guidelines for future cities in china – now other firms are doing the same.

The seeds for a sustainable future have been planted!

Questions we must ask ourselves are:

  • Can we transform the built environment fast enough?
  • Where we are today? 40 Quads are used by the building sector (EIA AEO)

There is hope! 6 quads = 600 coal plants that don’t need to be built – unless business as usual.

it’s (not) the recession! efficiency rules!

4.6% GHG increase due to recession, increased efficiency and growing deployment of renewable energy.

Next steps – need to accelerate efforts.

we have the building blocks to make sustainable buildings

TOD, daylighting, urban boundaries, walkable community, water catchement, renovation, housing density, passive systems. But scattered around the world. Needs to be a global effort. the US is the leader.  Regional to building systems over the last year and half tying everything together to create a new language. global summit-


2030 palette framework & Swatches will shortly be available. What are the rules of thumb?

Back to the Luois Kahn diagram for 2012

Silence = information = accessible living platform.

The stakes are the planet! It appears that the building sector has stepped up.



Q: So folks that don’t believe in climate change, how is Arch 2030 advocating to reduce politicization?

Invited to Denver Climate Action Network conference few weeks back. We know the political situation isn’t good globally as the money in the energy sector is too great – so little hope of international treaty. First time presenting to the group, building sector efforts under the radar for most of the groups. Reducing demand, now fuel switching and competition between fuels for most power plants. The building sector can lead and china will follow.

Carbon neutral cities have great opportunity to solve a significant portion of the climate change crisis. Eroding status of architecture discipline is being reversed by the push to reduce energy demand of buildings. Architects are problem solvers – and we’re stepping up to the challenge.

Q: Elaborate on china situation to keep them from undermining gains?

China adopted 2030 targets in 5 year plan, but not implemented. US firms designing lots. Chinese sending groups to the US to study what and how we’re doing – they don’t want to be beholden to Russia for energy (and there are the local health/political pressures to reduce pollution). China is trying to get ahead of US as they are competitive.

Q: How to address existing infrastructure -like freeways?

The numbers still hold that renovating and reusing existing – over 20 years the 1/4th of built environment is new or renovated – so re-plan fabric of the US and transform it. Went back to U of Oregon after 30 years – didn’t recognize most of it, the entire campus had been transformed.

“Go out and change the world!”


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