Architecture 2030's Edward Mazria
Architecture 2030's Edward Mazria
The 2030 Palette is a web-based sustainable design tool for architects, designers, and planners.
The 2030 Palette is a web-based sustainable design tool for architects, designers, and planners.

Edward Mazria is no stranger to changing the way architects design and build. His 2030 Challenge, issued by Architecture 2030 in 2006, called on the building sector to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. It has since been adopted by the nation’s leading professional organizations and architecture firms, which are influencing the design of billions of square feet of building space worldwide. 

Below, Mazria--winner of the 2009 Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing--talks about his organization’s latest initiative, the 2030 Palette. 

Please describe the 2030 Palette.  
Essentially what we’ve done is looked at the entire built environment from regions of the world down to cities, towns, buildings, and building elements. It’s a work in progress because we haven’t identified every element, but for the beta version we’ve tried to identify the major elements, and will fill it in as we go along. 

It’s a very visual tool, with illustrations and images of how each element has been successfully implemented and applied all around the world. For example, you can tell an architect in a coastal city that we’re going to have sea level rise so he needs to map for sea level rise. But how you map for sea level rise is very local. It’s the same idea for shading devices: If you’re in a hot area, you’ve got to shade your openings. That’s a universal principle but the application is local. 

The Palette is not an open Wiki type thing. It’s curated, partly because there are so many life-safety issues in the built environment, we don’t want to give out information that could cause damage or hurt people. We take in the content, and have to do due diligence, and make sure it’s applicable and appropriate. 

Who is the Palette for and how will it be used? 
Essentially it’s geared toward designers, architects, planners, building designers, building owners who conceive their own buildings, and developers. I like to explain it like this: Basically, when an architect or planner gets a project, he or she looks at the site and the square footage requirements and conceives much of the project in his or her head before drawing anything. He conceives the layout, form, structure, and what he really wants to do with this project—whether it’s for a building or development or redevelopment. 

Once you do that—this is essentially what I’ve found in my 45 years of practicing architecture—once you conceptualize what you want to do, you usually stick with that; you don’t change it as the project gets under way. You may massage it here and there, but the initial concept is what lasts through the entire project. So, it’s crucial to get that right, things like orientation and daylighting. Of course you can use tools and analysis to fine-tune the design, but if you don’t get the basic concept right, you’re fighting the design all the way through to make it sustainable. 

So, what the 2030 Palette provides is what’s been the missing piece for a long, long time: It gives designers and architects examples of low-carbon and resilient built environments before they start designing a project. 

So the development of the Palette will be an ongoing process? 
Definitely. We’re not developing new content, instead we’re curating the best information and best practices, and putting them into a complete language. We’re building it out over time so that we have a common bond, knowledge base, and language that we can all use. 

Why did you decide to launch it now, 17 years ahead of 2030? 
Our approach needs to be global—we now know that we cannot solve the problems we have with fossil fuels and climate change without changing the built environment. Because the built environment changes every 20 years or so, we have a huge opportunity now to come up with a new way to develop and redevelop our infrastructure and buildings to begin looking at them in a whole new way.

How we plan and design the built environment from here on out will determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic. The 2030 Palette provides an extraordinary opportunity to influence the direction we choose.