Learning From Practice: What is Holding Us Back From the 2030 Challenge

By Sophia Duluk Beavis posted 03-19-2014 12:12

As the 2030 Challenge deadline approaches, people are beginning to question if global carbon-neutrality is a feasible reality. But the question should not be whether we can build one carbon-neutral building, as many individual buildings have reached this goal, but rather the question should be whether we will build a carbon-neutral community. What drives the built environment’s impact on the world and climate change ultimately comes down to the knowledge of each architect and their willingness to push the limits of design.

Despite schools and practices claiming to have used sustainable building techniques since the 1970s, there are still less than 1000 net-zero energy buildings in the world today (http://www.enob.info/en/net-zero-energy-buildings/map/). As emerging professionals, this led us to a few questions. What were architects taught in school that equipped them with the proper knowledge and motivation to design for carbon-neutrality? What are architects being taught in practice to continue this knowledge and build innovation? What is preventing this knowledge from being implemented on a global scale? What are the gaps of knowledge within our field that could be explored to reach the goals of the 2030 Challenge?

Instead of examining the buildings, we are testing the architects, engineers, and contractors. This will allow us to get a better idea of what is currently practiced, and what we need to accomplish to reach our goals.  We have developed a short survey, which takes 10-15 minutes to complete, as a launching point to begin a discussion about what may or may not be holding us back from carbon-neutrality. The results of the survey will be shared publicly, and will contribute to a base of knowledge for further research studies. The results will be presented at various national conferences this year. We hope the survey results will show any generational gaps, the changing mindset of emerging professionals like ourselves, and areas of future development and research.  Please take the time to fill out the survey, as it will help better our architectural practice as a whole.

Heather Nelson and Sophia Duluk met while completing their Master of Architecture degrees at the University of Oregon where they both focused their degrees in sustainable technology. They co-authored the “Comparison of Solar Evaluation Tools: From Learning to Practice” and presented their findings at the 2013 American Solar Energy Conference. Heather Nelson is currently working at RTKL in Washington, D.C. Sophia Duluk is currently working for EHDD in San Francisco. The survey sprung from both their professional experiences and their experience at the University of Oregon. They have teamed up with Hyojin Kim, a PhD student at the Catholic University of America, whose research also revolves around current practices in architecture. Heather, Sophia, and Hyojin have been accepted to present their survey findings at the Gulf Coast Green Conference in Houston, Texas in June. Heather, Sophia, and Hyojin have been accepted to present the findings of the survey at the 2014 Gulf Coast Green Conference in Houston, Texas, in June.

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