Taking Account of Full Costs and Total Benefits in achieving a more efficient building sector: Architecture 2030 Challenge for Products

Posted on February 22nd, 2011 by

Simply put, Architecture 2030 (Ed Mazria) is among my favorite organizations.

Architecture 2030 has been developing and promoting well-thought through and practical concepts for shifting America’s built architecture toward a sustainable path.  Concepts that have an impact on many, from aspiring architecture students to policy-makers to businessmen creating more energy efficient products.

Not until today, with their release of The 2030 Challenge for Products did I realize one of the fundamental reasons that Ed’s work so appeals to me.

“The 2030 Challenge for Products is remarkable for using life cycle science to measure the progress of buildings. We know what gets measured, gets done. A commitment to using LCA means that the measurements will be the right ones. I look forward to working with the building industry in support of the Challenge.”

Rita Schenck, Ph.D, LCACP
Executive Director, Institute for Environmental Research and Education &
American Center for Life Cycle Assessment

Known by many terms (total ownership cost, total cost of ownership, life-cycle costs), taking serious the need to understand costs and benefits throughout a lifecycle is critical to well-informed and more robust decision-making.  Sadly, in American society, we have a very strong focus on Cost to Buy (CtB, that $0.99 price at Wal-Mart that leads too many to buy energy inefficient incandescents because they’re cheaper to buy at the cash register than more efficient options) versus a reasoned understanding of the true Cost to Own (CtO — which lays out, starkly, how those more efficient lighting options payback that additional upfront cost multiple times over, with the first payback time measured in weeks — even without calculating larger societal benefits). Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on a personal, organizational, national level is a way to move from CtB to CtOfacilitating making the right choice not just the easy choice, but the preferred choice. Architecture 2030’s work (and the resulting policy concepts/proposals) is strongly based on developing a robust understanding of the costs of action (and costs of inaction) and the full range of value streams that would result from action.  A true emphasis on robust total ownership cost, cost-to-own, life-cycle assessment that is so often absent from American policy discussions.

And, time-after-time, Architecture 2030 has come forward with proposals that show tremendous benefits for the United States based on substantive CtO/TOC/LCA analysis — even before we consider the enormous value to the reduced risk of climate catastrophe that would result from adopting these concepts.  (On previous proposals see, for example, Architecture 2030 Plan to Revive the Economy and A W4 Solution: Insulate America from Economic and Climate Devastation.)

As for today’s announcement on the 2030 Challenge for Products, which they call “Architecture 2030’s Valentine to the Planet”, here are the basic concepts:

the Building Sector is currently responsible for almost half of the energy –consumption (49%) and GHG emissions (47%) in the U.S. While the majority of the energy consumption, and their associated emissions, come from building operations (such as heating, cooling, and lighting), the embodied energy and emissions of building products are also becoming increasingly significant. Approximately 5% to 8% of total annual U.S. energy consumption and associated emissions is for building products and construction. When including all products for the built environment (furniture, movable equipment, appliances, etc.), the percentage is even greater.

The 2030 Challenge for Products specifically asks the global architecture, planning, design, and building community to specify, design, and manufacture products for new developments, buildings, and renovations to meet a maximum carbon-equivalent footprint of 30% below the product category average through 2014. The embodied carbon-equivalent footprint reduction will be increased to 35% in 2015, 40% in 2020, 45% in 2025, and 50% by 2030. A two-year period, from 2011 to 2013, has been established for the development of industry standards and product averages, and for product – manufacturers to move to meet the 30% reduction based on a Life Cycle Assessment.

These are achievable targets. And, if achieved, will have a meaningful impact.  We must combine efficiency with expanded clean energy production and redefined consumption patterns/choices to achieve a mitigation path to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate chaos and provide a path toward sustainable prosperity for our children and future generations (thinking out, at least, seven generations).

If you are a builder, manufacturer, product designer, architect, merchandiser, or major consumer, take the time to learn about the 2030 Challenge for Products and see how you fit into moving this initiative forward.

  1. The 2030 Challenge for Products
  2. FAQ Page http://architecture2030.org/about/products_faq
  3. Online Version of THE Bulletin Launch with quotes from many leaders in energy sustainability and building.
  4. Press Release

For all, I recommend learning about — and promoting — Architecture 2030 who are providing meaningful paths toward securing a prosperous and climate-friendly future.

Written by A Siegel

A Siegel blogs  at <a href=”http://getenergysmartnow.com” >Get Energy Smart! NOW!</a> with a 3E focus: economy, energy, and environment.

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