Changing the Architectural Climate

Edward Mazria’s campaign to reduce the industry’s environmental impact heats up.

Three and a half years ago Edward Mazria placed a cold call to Metropolis, outlining to me an intriguing theory. The New Mexico ­architect and author of a seminal volume on green building titled The Passive Solar Energy Book (1979) had spent a year researching the correlation between global warming and the building sector. And he’d determined that architecture was the leading cause of climate change. Excuse me? I asked—more than clear-cutting, more than smokestack industries, more than (gasp!) SUVs? The numbers aren’t even close, Mazria said. None of them alone equals the carbon emissions spewed out for the construction, heating, and cooling of buildings. Architects, he said, hold the key to the global thermostat.

In October 2003 Metropolis published a cover story fittingly titled, “Turning Down the Global Thermostat,” launching Mazria’s highly effective public campaign on behalf of our endangered planet. Following an initial period of what might politely be called “official skepticism,” he began making real progress (see image at right). Recently Mazria spoke to a United States Conference of Mayors Summit on Energy and the Environment, outlining a method for drastically reducing fossil-fuel emissions on the local level. Next year his advocacy group, Architec-ture 2030, will help organize an interactive Global Emergency Teach-In, which will be Webcast throughout North and South America and the European Union, bringing together the academic design community to understand the implications of global warming and architecture’s role in addressing it.

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