Sustainable design, LEED certification, energy conservation, small class sizes, staffing, declining enrollment, excess space, closing buildings, deferred maintenance, budget deficits, and operations and maintenance costs are just some of the major building-related issues facing education institutions. So which issues take priority?
One focus should be on reducing energy consumption. When looking to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and lessen dependence on fossil fuels, we usually overlook the biggest source of emissions and energy use: buildings and the energy they consume.
Buildings are responsible for 50.1 percent of energy consumed in the United States. This includes energy used in the production and transportation of materials to building sites, the construction process and operation of buildings. Globally, the percentage is even greater. The building sector is the key source of demand for energy and materials that produce GHG.
Architecture 2030, a non-profit organization, was established in 2002 by architect Edward Mazria in response to the global-warming crisis. Its 2030 Challenge urges the architecture and building community to adopt the following targets:
All new buildings, developments and major renovations shall be designed to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy-consumption performance standard of 50 percent of the regional (or country) average for that building type.
At a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area shall be renovated annually to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 50 percent of the regional (or country) average for that building type.
The fossil-fuel reduction standard for all new buildings and major renovations shall be increased steadily: 60 percent in 2010; 70 percent in 2015; 80 percent in 2020; 90 percent in 2025; and carbon-neutral in 2030.
These targets can be accomplished by using sustainable-design strategies, generating on-site renewable power or purchasing renewable energy (20 percent maximum) or certified renewable energy credits.
Since the 1970s oil shortage, buildings have reduced energy use significantly. Savings have been found in HVAC and electrical systems, the building envelope and equipment, furniture and fixtures.
For schools built before the 1970s, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems are outdated and lack sophisticated energy-conserving features, including appropriate building shell insulation. These buildings must be renovated to attempt to reach the goals of Architecture 2030.
We cannot solve all the building issues facing institutions, but we can start solving them one at a time. Architecture 2030 presents a challenge to all schools.