Buildings have the potential to save the world.
Architecture 2030 is non-profit organization changing the way buildings are designed and constructed all over the world to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As students from the College of Architecture join its ranks, the movement has reached UT.
Established in 2002 in response to the growing climate crisis, the organization acknowledges that current and past architectural design has had a great impact on the depletion of our environment.
"Most of the college students today have never experienced, so called, normal climate conditions," said Mark DeKay, associate professor in architecture and director of graduate studies in the College of Architecture and Design. "So it turns out that buildings are actually the biggest component of that. If you look at the graphs on Architecture 2030's website, you see that buildings are about half the problem worldwide in terms of energy use. Also, in terms of electricity, they're closer to somewhere around 70 percent of the consumption of electricity."
The Architecture 2030 initiative aims for all future buildings to be designed as completely carbon-neutral. The organization uses government statistics to assess the amount of energy used by buildings in a certain region, setting goals to lower the use of fossil fuels across the country.
Also a Corps Leader in the Climate Reality Project, an initiative founded by Al Gore, DeKay has been sharing the goals of Architecture 2030 with his students, hoping to encourage a generation of "green" architects.
"The problem is that nobody knows how big of a deal the design for a building is," Dillon Canfield, a junior architecture student and graphic designer for The Daily Beacon, said. "People think that driving a Prius saves the world but they're wrong. A lot of little things have a huge impact that they don't know about. If people were more aware, they could help ... In all honesty, it could save money and the planet. It could cut energy use in about half."
In regard to the efficiency of UT's buildings, fifth-year architecture student Will Rowland said he is unimpressed.
"If you were to ask how most buildings perform on this campus: extremely poorly, very energy inefficient," Rowland said.
Jordan Etters, a fifth-year architecture student, argued that UT cannot be faulted for inefficient structures, as most of UT's buildings were designed long before any "green" initiatives. The oldest building on campus, South College Hall, dates back to 1872.
"You get into that because you get into this movement of net-zero and trying to be sustainable, but this is a pretty old campus," Etters said. "If you look at a school like Arizona State University, they have a lot of newer buildings that obviously have things in place to do that, but the only new building that we've built is the music building, and it's got things in place to think about those types of efficiency issues."
According to the U.S. General Services Administration, the federal government has stated that any new federal building is required to be certified by Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, an organization that classifies a building's sustainability by evaluating factors like energy and water usage.
"It's entirely up to our collective will," DeKay said. "In World War II, we completely converted the entire economy of the country to meet a crisis and we actually have that big of a crisis going on right now. It certainly can be done and part of it is will and establishing standards."
To learn more about Architecture 2030, visit their website here.