aia chicago convention
Photo © Architectural Record
Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030.

The internationally recognized Ed Mazria delivered a keynote address at the 2014 AIA Convention in Chicago on Friday. His message to attendees: design with a purpose, because life depends on it.

“Scientists are projecting that by 2047, that the coldest year after that date that you will experience will be warmer than the warmest year you’ve ever experienced,” Mazria said. Avoiding that possibility—and leveraging design, architecture, and building professions to make the built environment as “green” as possible—was Mazria’s message.

Mazria is founder of Architecture 2030, a think tank working to develop solutions to prevent a rise in global carbon emissions by promoting the use of low-carbon and green solutions that can be applied to the built environment over the next century. There is a tremendous opportunity to build a sensitive urban infrastructure over the next 15 to 20 years: In his research, Mazria has found that 60 percent of the entire building stock of the world will be built in that time frame.

“This is a huge opportunity,” he said. “Urban environments emit 75 percent of carbon emissions, so that’s where the work has to be done...if we get it right, we solve the problem. If we don’t get it right, we’re locked-in for 80 to 120 years. That’s the average lifespan of a building.” Of projected growth, 53 percent of the construction will occur in North America and China. Mazria is confident that the right steps are being taken in those locales, but that still leaves the remaining 47 percent around the world. “The people around the world need to get the right information,” Mazria says. “Right now the information is highly technical, it’s in an inaccessible format.”

To reach them, Mazria’s think tank began three years ago to promote sustainable and net zero design principles through an easily digested and accessible portal for design professionals; it’s called 2030 Palette (accessible at Mazria urged professionals to remain undaunted by the challenges. “Never, never underestimate the power of your actions,” he said.