Design to Survive
by Edward Mazria, AIA
In December, 2005, the American Institute of Architects Board of Directors adopted a position statement they hope will "transform the profession to emphasize sustainability." In the absence of federal leadership on this issue, the AIA recognizes the need for design professionals to find solutions to serious global problems. In the following letter to the construction industry, a veteran environmental activist/ architect discusses what this means to practitioners. — Editor
We are in a race against time. Global warming, caused by a human-made blanket of greenhouse gasses — mainly carbon dioxide — that surrounds the earth and traps in heat, is well underway. If allowed to intensify over the coming years, it will seriously threaten our planet.
Unknowingly, we in the architecture, planning, and building community are chiefly responsible for these gasses, and we have a unique and historic opportunity to reverse the warming trend for which we are responsible.
The scientific consensus is that we must limit the rise in global average surface temperature to less than 2 degrees Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels to avoid disastrous effects.
If Warming Doesn't Stop
At a 2-degree C. increase, it is likely that millions of people will be displaced from their homes. Food production will decline, rivers will become too warm for trout and salmon, weather will become more extreme, sea level will rise and inundate coastal areas, the world's coral reefs — home to 25 percent of all marine species — will be destroyed, a quarter of all plant and animal species on earth will become extinct, and the Greenland ice sheet will begin to melt away. >>>
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Receding glaciers (causing rising sea levels and flooding) are only one visible symptom of serious global warming.
Photo: Bruce F. Molnia/ USGS
Green buildings, such as the Fetzer Winery Administration Building, Hopland, California, by Valley Architects, show the way toward fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo: Kevin Matthews
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