From his work in architecture and solar design to his work founding Architecture 2030 and the 2030 Challenge, Edward Mazria, FAIA, has long been recognized as a leading voice in mobilizing the architecture and design community in repsonse to climate change. In recognition of his dedication to sustainability, in 2009, Mazria was named the inaugural winner of the Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing. The award, which carries a $50,000 cash prize, recognizes extraordinary, lasting, and far-reaching contributions to the advancement of sustainable housing in the United States. 

In the first of a three-part series checking in on past Hanley Award winners, we visit with Mazria to see how the industry has progressed in the last four years.

What did winning the 2011 Hanley Award mean to you, and what did you use the $50,000 grant for?

Mazria: The ceremony was terrific. It happened at Greenbuild, during the Residential Summit, and it was a great chance to really celebrate the movement within the building sector, especially the residential part of the sector. It meant quite a bit for us [at Architecture 2030], being recognized in that way, and the event itself brought together so many people in that sector to celebrate that progress. As for the grant money, we used it to employ graphic and web designers for Architecture 2030

How is the built environment progressing toward Architecture 2030’s goals of carbon neutrality by 2030?

We’ve seen dramatic movement toward meeting the 2030 Challenge targets. In fact, nationally, we’re ahead of the targets. I checked with RESNET about a year ago to see how many buildings constructed since 2006—when we launched—were rated at HERS 65 or better. [This rating] would meet the 50 percent energy-reduction goal [of the national average energy consumption of existing U.S. commercial buildings as reported by the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, the baseline for Architecture 2030’s goals]. The number was 70,000. 

We’ve also looked at data from USGBC. We looked at how many LEED Gold- and Platinum–certified buildings were constructed from 2009 to 2013, because most of them would meet the 50 percent energy-reduction goal, and there were 7,761 of them. That’s a lot of buildings, and a lot of square footage. In addition, 30,000 buildings were registered during that period and they are now going through the certification process, and there are many more buildings that aren’t getting certified that meet the targets. 

It’s also really promising that certain cities have adopted our targets, like Boulder [Colo.] and Austin [Texas], as well as some states. Under the new California building code, which goes into effect in January, all new buildings must meet the 55 percent energy-reduction standards. 

How is the 2030 Challenge for Products going, and what products have most dramatically reduced their carbon emissions since you launched the challenge?

We’re beginning to see tremendous movement in that realm. A lot of companies are doing life-cycle analyses, and producing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) with carbon as one of the elements, so you can see who’s meeting the targets and who’s not. The concrete industry is the furthest along—there are a number of concrete companies who are meeting the 2030 Product Challenge targets now and who have completed their EPDs. And the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association has adopted the 2030 Challenge for Products. This is great to see, because there are a handful of products within the building sector that are the most carbon-intensive, and those are the ones to focus on. 

The U.S. Gypsum Corporation is producing their life-cycle analysis and their EPD. And now there are a number of architecture firms giving preferential treatment to manufacturers who produce environmental product declarations. We just had a webinar on promoting the idea of asking for EPDs. For instance, we’re working with Cannon Design to develop protocols to require declarations. Architecture firms asking for EPDs—that’s the sector that’s going to drive this change.

What’s the idea behind the 2030 Palette, and what kind of feedback have you receivedso far?

The Palette sets up a definition of sustainability across the entire spectrum of the built environment. Before now, we’ve had pieces of it—some people work in the building sector, in planning, in landscape, in transportation—so there’s tons of information. What the Palette is intended to do is curate that information and put it together in one place and one sequential language for the built environment. Everything from regional issues of land development and habitat all the way down to building elements—all to accelerate the transformation of the built environment. 

We completed the beta version and launched it for testing. So far, over 2,500 people have requested access to the data to test, and over 1,000 are actively using it. The feedback has been terrific, and we keep getting requests for testers. We’ll be testing and developing content between now and November, when we’ll launch the full public free-access version on the opening day of Greenbuild. That’s when it will go live online. It’ll always be a work in progress, though. 

Click here to read the 2009 Hanley Award profile on Mazria. The Hanley Award is given out annually by The Hanley Foundation, a non-profit foundation that provides funding for housing, environmental, and other causes. Michael Hanley, retired chairman and co-founder of Hanley Wood, started the family foundation in 1999. In addition to funding the Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing, the foundation supports local entities helping to provide shelter, such as Friendship Place in Washington, D.C., the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Click here to read about the 2013 winner of the Hanley Award: Dennis Creech, executive director and co-founder of Southface, a leading advocacy and research organization promoting sustainable homes, workplaces, and communities.