The first time I ever heard of sustainability as a concept was in 1972 when I was working on my Environmental Science degree in college and read The Limits To Growth, in which MIT researchers Dennis and Donnella Meadows and Jørgen Randers projected the environmental and economic implications of global population growth, food production, energy use, and resource consumption. It was the first time these areas of study had been integrated, modeled, and overlaid onto a critical path timeline.
Limits came out at the dawn of ecology, and the authors’ ground-breaking research delivered a dire warning: Change course soon, or we will “overshoot” global resources and exceed the carrying capacity of the planet. By “soon,” they meant 1975.
And even though we’ve made great strides in many areas in the right direction over the ensuing 40 years, we’re still on a collision course with those same limits, still issuing the same (and even more urgent) warnings, and still waiting for signs that this global ship of ours is turning. The clock that guides many of us in our daily lives and professional missions started ticking when Limits was published, and it hasn’t stopped for a second.
The clock started as well for visionary architect Edward Mazria when he read Limits back then. But rereading some of the authors’ warnings in 2002 renewed and increased his concerns, and he created the nonprofit environmental research group Architecture 2030 to create a carbon-based timeline for the building sector. When Mazria and his team issued the 2030 Challenge four years later, they reset the clock for our industry, giving us a new perspective on our sector’s role in reducing carbon emissions and reversing climate change, along with the metrics and milestones we need to reach in order to achieve carbon-neutral levels by 2030—the target year their research identifies as crucial.
Goals, metrics, and milestones like those laid out in Limits and the 2030 Challenge enable us to focus on our missions, navigate the hurdles we face, and measure our progress.
And it is within this context that I am proud to announce EcoHome’s Vision 2020 research initiative, our yearlong editorial odyssey guided by a distinguished faculty of visionary thought leaders, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers from every sector of our industry, introduced on page 16.
Throughout this year, our editorial team will explore the most insightful research, and uncover the greatest innovations in technologies, policies, and practices that will help our industry set and reach new goals for sustainability. Our mission is to identify and discuss the critical challenges and opportunities that exist in each of the 10 areas of study, and to explore how they can be combined into an integrated course of action along a timeline between now and 2020—as we work to meet the metrics and milestones established by the 2030 Challenge and other critical environmental timelines.
Look for continuous coverage in EcoHome and at our website (www.ecohomemagazine.com) in the areas of regenerative design; sustainable communities; energy and carbon; materials and resources; water efficiency; indoor environmental quality; resilient products and performance; building systems research; green building codes, standards, and rating systems; and market penetration. Then, in November, we’ll publish the research in our special Vision 2020 edition.