Coal’s retreat

The latest newsletter from Architecture 2030 shares great news about progress decarbonizating the US energy and building sectors from the Energy Information Agency‘s Annual Energy Outlook 2012.

The report provides a glimmer of hope that the world will experience a ‘carbon spring’ (led by architects and the building sector) where the tyrants King Coal and Big Oil are deposed before it’s too late for the climate and the mountains of Appalachia. The flip side of the drama (and the new faustian bargain being made) is the increase in fracking that is providing all the natural gas that is our Hamlet in this story and replacing coal as the fuel of choice for electricity generation.

The rest of this post is from Architecture 2030:

In May 2012, the New York Times reported that “Coal and electric utilities, long allied, are starting to split. More than 100 of the 500 or so U.S. coal-burning power plants are expected to be shut down in the next few years. While coal still provides about a third of the nation’s power, just four years ago it was providing nearly half.” According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) there was a nationwide decrease of 22.8% in net electricity generation from coal between April 2011 and April 2012. The reasons given in the press for the decline of U.S. coal consumption include new pollution rules, fuel switching, and environmental pressure.

The unstated, yet requisite, driver of this trend is the dramatically declining demand for energy in the Building Sector due to slower growth in the U.S. building stock and increases in building energy efficiency.

The Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (AEO 2012), prepared by the EIA, presents long-term projections of energy demand based on results from EIA’s National Energy Modeling System. AEO 2012 concludes “The rate of growth in energy use slows over the projection period, reflecting moderate population growth, an extended economic recovery, and increasing energy efficiency in end-use applications.” Visualizing AEO Building Sector data in a graphic format clearly illustrates the key drivers of the recent trend in U.S. energy infrastructure planning.

According to AEO 2012, if the ‘best available demand technologies*’ are incorporated, the projected energy consumption for residential and commercial buildings in 2030 is expected to drop 12% below 2005 levels; CO2 emissions are expected to drop 21.8% below 2005 levels.

AEO projections do not include sustainable planning applications or incorporate passive heating and cooling, natural ventilation, daylighting, or spatial configuration and site design strategies. With the growing number of architects and planners incorporating these strategies to meet the 2030 Challenge targets, actual energy consumption and emissions in the Building Sector will drop substantially lower.
All of this is particularly good news because the alternative of continuing coal use is rather dire. To quote from a previous E-News Bulletin:

“The only practical way to preserve a planet resembling that of the Holocene [i.e. the world as we know it],…is to rapidly phase out coal emissions…”

Note: Seventy-six (76%) percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. is consumed by buildings.

*    Best available demand technologies – new equipment purchases are limited to the most efficient versions of technologies available in the residential and commercial buildings sectors.

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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 Continue reading