Architecture 2030 and the 2030 Palette

By: Tighe Lanning


A typical Swatch – Building Facades

When I was at USC for grad school Ed Mazria gave a guest lecture to the architecture/engineering departments about the necessity of reducing energy consumption in buildings, in an effort to reduce global GHG emissions. According to Ed and Architecture 2030, buildings consume more than 75% of the electricity produced in the US, and emit almost half the CO2 emissions. This information, when overlaid on top of information from the Energy Information Administration and the International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, gave rise to a number of initiatives that further develop and bolster the 2030 Challenge.

As a Building Science student, Ed’s message really hit home. It was powerful to know that architects and designers have so much control over emissions. The Building sector consumes almost as much energy as Industry and Transportation combined. Buildings consume nearly half of all energy in this country, and not surprisingly, produce nearly half of our emissions. As architects and designers we get an enormous say in how efficient our buildings will be, and given the lifespan of a new building, we’re responsible for a big portion of the emission pie.


This is daunting, to be sure. I wanted to get a better understanding of the big picture and how I could have an impact. Would it be better to make a few really efficient buildings, or more quasi-efficient buildings? Is it better to focus education efforts toward those who build without architects?

In an effort to figure out how to have as large an impact as possible, I took a job with Architecture 2030 in Santa Fe, NM shortly after I graduated. I helped develop content for the 2030 Palette and headed research for several 2030 initiatives active at the time. I was fortunate enough to travel with Ed to London, Bonn, and Paris, where we helped disseminate information to the United Nations on the state of global emissions and climate change. Architecture 2030 was invited to discuss the major role that buildings play in global GHG emissions- and thus the major responsibilities bestowed upon architects. These trips were part of the precursor negotiations leading to the COP 21. The COP 21, held late last year in Paris, saw 195 countries agree in writing to reduce emissions enough to keep global temperature increases to below 2°C. For those interested, the full text of the agreement can be found here. Although overshadowed by the major terrorist attacks that year, the COP 21 was a historic agreement- a milestone in the global effort to band together to face a common adversary- ourselves.


During down time I developed content for the 2030 Palette. The 2030 Palette is effectively a digital update to Ed’s book on passive design. The Palette aims to be an easy to use reference for architects and designers looking to create low-emitting buildings. It is not proprietary, and it is not modeling software. It is a free online resource for anyone interested in sustainability, which, according to latest hottest-year-on-record trends, should be all of us. I use the Palette when I need to reference rules of thumb (solar shading dimensions, light shelf ratios, insulation depths etc.), when I need to find inspirational projects that exemplify sustainable strategies, and when I need a place to compile my own ideas on the subject. Users can also submit photos for review and acceptance into the Palette – if you would like more information about this, or any aspects of the 2030 Palette or Architecture 2030 please let me know.


Custom content can be added, compiled, and shared.


An In-Depth Information Page on Overhangs, found in the Solar Shading Swatch

To read more, check out these resources:

Architecture 2030’s Programs:

2030 Palette

2030 Districts

AIA 2030 Online and Professional Series


Architecture 2030’s Challenges:

2030 Challenge

2030 Challenge for Planning

2030 Challenge for Products


Architecture 2030 Initiatives:

Roadmap to Zero Emissions

Achieving 80 x 50 (NYC)

Urban Climate Initiative (since revised- now called Achieving Zero)

The 2050 Imperative

China Accord

Advancing Net Zero Worldwide

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