World's Architects Aim to Eliminate Carbon Emissions by 2050

Originally published by: Retrofit MagazineOctober 2, 2014

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The International Union of Architects (UIA) recently held its triennial World Congress in Durban, South Africa. The international organization represents 124 national architect associations, including the American Institute of Architects, and around 1.3 million architects globally. While the event is considered the epicenter for design in the built environment, this year it made an important announcement regarding the environment.

During the meeting in Durban, the UIA adopted a plan called the “2050 Imperative” to phase out carbon emissions from the building sector by 2050. The plan was modeled after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change proposed agreement to put a stop to all carbon emissions from the power and industrial sectors by the second half of the 21st century.

The UIA has identified the following key objectives for the building and design community to meet the goals outlined in the plan:

  • Plan and design cities, towns, urban developments and new buildings to be carbon-neutral, meaning they use no more energy over the course of a year than they produce, or import, from renewable-energy sources.
  • Plan and design cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings, to be carbon neutral, meaning they use no more energy over the course of a year than they produce, or import, from renewable energy sources.
  • Renovate and rehabilitate existing cities, towns, urban redevelopments and buildings to be carbon neutral whilst respecting cultural and heritage values.
  • In those cases where reaching carbon-neutral is not feasible or practical, plan and design cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings and renovations to be highly efficient with the capability to produce, or import, all their energy from renewable-energy sources in the future.
  • Commit to the principle of engaging in research and setting targets toward meeting the 2050 goal.
  • Advocate and promote socially responsible architecture for the community.
  • Develop and deliver equitable access to the information and tools needed to:
  •      Plan and design sustainable, resilient, inclusive and low-carbon/zero-carbon built environments.
  •      Design no-cost/low-cost, onsite renewable energy and natural resources systems (passive heating and cooling, water catchment and storage, solar hot water, daylighting and natural ventilation systems).

As the architects have demonstrated here, buildings have tremendous potential to help curb carbon emissions and stop climate change. One of the best ways to accomplish these goals is to ensure that commercial and residential properties have adequate thermal insulation in the roof and walls. I look forward to working with the architectural and design community to ensure that the foam insulation with the highest R-value, polyiso, is at the forefront of this initiative.