Net-Zero energy, what is holding us back?

May 19 '14 107 Last Comment
May 19, 14 1:20 pm

Hi Everyone, 

My colleague and I from the University of Oregon are doing a research study about the 2030 Challenge. We have entered the work place, and both of us work at firms that are committed to the 203 Challenge. However, we have founds that many projects have goals nowhere near the goals of carbon-neutrality, and we began to wonder why that is. We wondered, is it really that clients do not want to features that lead to net-zero energy? Or is it that as architects, we are not doing enough to educate clients early in the design process and guide them on the path to net-zero energy. As fairly new architects in the field, we also wondered if there was any type of divide between generations at firms. Most schools across the country and the world have classes in a variety of topics pertaining to sustainable design. Most architectural students graduate without knowledge of passive design strategies, solar panels, and thermally efficient wall design. So then the question becomes, with all these young, knowledgeable people in firms across the United States, are their voices and technical expertise being heard? I realize being young in the profession means there are a lot of things we do not know, but there are also things we do know. Are firms hanging on to the way they traditionally do things, because that is what we know, and it has been working for us so far? In order to begin exploring the answers to these questions, we have created a short 40 question survey. The survey is not climate specific, but does test some knowledge, and get at the question of why we are not making more progress towards net-zero goals. If you could all take 10 minutes to complete the survey we would appreciate it. We are presenting the findings at the Gulf Coast Green conference, and will continue our research based on the results this fall. We have many AIA Chapters who are also helping us to distribute the survey who are interested in the results. Please help our profession grow.

Thank you,

Sophia and Heather


May 19, 14 3:05 pm

Solar panels aren't all they're cracked up to be. I would not push this blindly as the cure for a poorly designed building. Thermal efficiency seems to be pointless with all-glass facades. And what is zero net energy really? It's not building an energy-independent system running on its own but rather implementing something else that in theory offsets fossil fuel production annually or whenever because renewables from the grid aren't coming online fast enough to satiate thirst. You get to a point where people start specifying things like aerogel or other things that make the process a technological pursuit and further waste of resources just to aero out the numerical operational values of one building. 

May 19, 14 4:42 pm

There is a frontier of diminishing returns on strategies for reducing energy use in buildings. You can get some big gains by doing some simple things (e.g. insulating well, using more efficient systems, etc.), but you quickly reach a point where it becomes prohibitively expensive to get even small additional improvements in efficiency. Net Zero Energy is very expensive up front (as a capital cost). It just doesn't make sense to spend the money it takes to achieve it.

There are also design and functionality issues to deal with as well. As my structural engineering professor pointed out to me many years ago, "You can design a building to resist even a magnitude 10 earthquake with little long as you don't care what it costs and don't mind that it doesn't have any windows or doors."

Also, as bugsmetoo points out, many technologies related to energy use and production are just not capable of achieving what these Net Zero standards are asking them to do. Photovoltaics and wind power are horribly inefficient. The only non-fossil energy sources that make any kind of sense are nuclear and hydroelectric, and those are unpopular for other reasons. 

But really, the fundamental problem with Net Zero, 2030, and all that kind of thing is that they treat everything as a resource to be conserved, except time and money.

May 19, 14 4:47 pm

And, of course, there's the stated principle behind the 2030 Challenge:

"Slowing the growth rate of GHG emissions and then reversing it is the key to addressing climate change and keeping global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels."

Which is ridiculous nonsense.

May 19, 14 5:23 pm

On 2030's site, the reduction in fossil fuel consumption plotted from now until 2030 is overly optimistic. Ten percent decrease every five years? Not when developing countries are buying cars and burning up to liven their own megacities. Not when massive subsidies exist to keep the current systems chugging along.  Renewables aren't so bright when fracking is chosen over them, for political reasons and social agendas.

It's said that we are way beyond reverting back to pre-industrial levels or an acceptable industrial point. Nothing we do from now will sequester anything so it makes no sense to imagine a drastic drop in GHGs in the coming years. Things done now and in the future is merely damage control and stabilization.

Architecture can improve itself but these delusional goals don't help. It can't operate in isolation, tweaking materials and preaching passive design. It needs the public to change their large-house-two cars dream life and wasteful mindless habits. Not so easy to do in countries where freedom is associated with consumption.

Gregory WalkerGregory Walker
May 19, 14 5:45 pm

given my mood today, i would have been a little snarkier and pointed out that an owner spending the kind of capital outlay to get to net-zero (however precisely we want to define that) would have been overjoyed to know that there's 300 buildings going up simultaneously in east asia that will produce more ghg's than their building would for 1000 years. 

if you can't get a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions that's enforceable for every nation, all the efforts to 'lead' on this issue will be so much folly...

of course, our coastlines are probably already screwed - all the 2030 buildings in the world won't make a whit's difference...

May 19, 14 5:52 pm

^ +1 gwharton and bugsmetoo, 

the lip service your firms pay to these "green" initiatives is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. 

Sustainability is a farce. Lets talk about true sustainability, as in designing for peoples actual lives in the face of a changing climate, not some naive altruistic delusion that we can affect mass change through individual buildings and an isolated dogma.  

Lets make buildings that will last hundreds of years in the face of climate change. We do that through good design and forward thinking, and while there is some overlap all of these green initiatives, most of these cults confuse the issue at hand.

How sustainable are these net, zero projects going to be as climate change continues? when the air is polluted to the point that passive strategies make it impossible to keep the windows open and maintain a livable environment? Cause that's what you already get in places like Beijing. That is where the world is headed. Don't get caught by the zeitgeist of the times, they are a changing.

May 19, 14 6:26 pm

JonathanLivingston, Ya I agree.  

The paradox is that most of this is about finding ways to sustain/continue our current lifestyle by offsetting our inherently gluttonous ways...Trying to sustain the unsustainable...We need to create a new paradigm overall...That's not going to happen on a mass scale.   We will never be able to reach global sustainability because the politics are too complex and at odds but local sustainability is totally doable.  Rather than fighting a losing battle for global utopia we should be trying disaster proof our local communities by decentralizing our dependency on food, energy, etc.. 

May 19, 14 7:09 pm

you guys are climate change deniers or something?  buildings that will just last hundreds of years despite climate change?  you seem to be missing the point.  if we don't make it get better, it will get worse.  hundreds of years is pretty optimistic.  unless you're vault-tec.  they might be doing pretty well.

here you go.  21st century architecture, built in 1978.  the only place left to live is below ground with artificial air and life support.  that's sustainable (as long as you're nowhere near a coast ).

May 19, 14 7:23 pm

I don't think anyone above is denying climate change. Just the notion of sustainability. Particularly a dogma preaching towards global sustainability. It will get worse. We will not change that. Trying to fight a river of impending change is stupid, that is what all of these initiative are trying to do.

But we can embrace the change and create innovation that will allow us to cope with the change, which is a very different thing then trying to fix it and going against the tide. In that way we can achieve sustainability of our lifestyle, and the human race if you want to extend things to that degree of absurdum. That should be the role of architects, and I suspect that is the role most architects are already engaging.

I just spent hours of component analysis to improve a buildings envelope. Not because it lowers the energy bill, but because it will create a more comfortable environment within a high range of temperature fluctuation. And that IMHO is what sustainability should be about. 

The planet is not going anywhere. It will just be shedding that which cannot adapt quick enough.

Or we can keep perpetuating this save the planet bullshit. 

May 19, 14 8:11 pm

so your answer is to turn up the air conditioner when it gets hot?

fighting a tide might be impossible and all, but it's a better solution than ignoring the problem.  surely you're aware that this isn't a question of being a little uncomfortable?

May 19, 14 8:25 pm


You're probably reading too much into his words, which is a bit careless at parts but the gist of it is: don't buy into sustainability. The product, not the hard practices that aren't so easy to alter course with just a few lofty ideals and infographics. Architects ought to go against green-washing, materials selection and technobabble as their primary tool and defense, preaching more consumption as a means to save the world, and all that easy ridding of guilt and responsibility. 

I take Livingston's message to mean that sustainability is a bunch of lifestyle choices to fix. Improve the building because it makes people feel better, not for an award or metric--the tone of such a goal is different when it's humane and empathetic to people, not catering to inanimate spaces. 

May 19, 14 8:51 pm

How is striving for an impossible goal better then acceptance of reality and inquiry into required adaptation to deal with reality? What happens when you have invested all of your resources into that impossible goal and fallen short? The argument I hear is that the effort will have taken the edge of the change but I have seen no indication that is possible, especially when the effort to combat the change is embraced by only a small minority. This effort to combat change obscures our need and ability to just deal with it. 

Turning up the AC when it gets hotter is in some sense how the vast majority of people are going to deal with climate change. But wait you will say "not everyone can afford AC and look what that energy use is doing to the planet"!  I agree shits changing and people will have to suffer or adapt. That's just how nature works. The cause at this point is irrelevant. Our adaptation may bring the change about sooner and more drastically but that will only hasten the need for greater innovation. We will develop technology to deal with the problem only when the problem confronts us. After all necessity is the mother of invention. Until it is necessary to adapt the world will not. We must rely on human natures desire for self preservation on an individual level. Collective altruism just doesn't work, If it did we could do things like tax the heck out of gas in order to force that necessity for change. Not exactly a popular idea. So my only conclusion is that we are forced to let the necessity develop on its own.

I know this is a very cynical position to take. but all this green washing IMO leads us in the opposite direction. Away from embracing the change we will need to deal with a changing climate. and towards a romantic idea that we can stop it. 

So I would repeat my earlier statement that sustainability is a farce. The only thing that is truly sustainable is perpetual change. It's time to embrace the change that is coming. 

May 20, 14 1:06 am

^ yup.  That's the real inconvenient truth.  Global sustainability is about as likely as world peace.  It's unfortunate but true.   All we can do is prepare for the inevitable changes that will occur and make out local areas less dependent on the centralized structure that is heading towards collapse.  

May 20, 14 1:08 am

Funny thing is that the small agrarian communities will probably be just fine.  The ones who make the least impact on the planet will be the most prepared.  

May 20, 14 8:28 am

you mean the agrarian communities that could suffer from increased drought conditions?

or loss of groundwater

sure, they won't be able to grow crops without water.  but it's a new economy.  they aren't going to make a living growing crops anyway.  they'll just turn their air conditioners up and they'll be fine.

let's hope turning up the air conditioner remains a viable option for those in small agrarian communities.  if they can't afford to repair or run it, there's a good chance they'll die.

May 20, 14 9:41 am

Well, I like Obama's leadership on the issue! just this Christmas he flew the taxpayer's 747 from DC to Hawaii, spent one day on the ground there, and flew back from Hawaii to DC on the 747 to sign a piece of paper. Then he flew back to Hawaii on the 747 before returning after Christmas. Except for his wife who stayed a few days to hang with Oprah before returning on a 757 (that had to be prepositioned, of course). Then there was the recent trip from DC to Philadelphia! Most folks would drive or maybe take a helicopter or maybe even the Gulfstream. Not big O; 747 all the way baby! But he IS CONCERNED with Global Whatever. With leadership like that let me go figure out how to mow my grass with less fuel.

May 20, 14 9:54 am

Curt, I'm talking about tribal societies that already live off grid.  Drought will effect us more.  

May 20, 14 10:26 am

i don't think most tribal societies will be able to turn up their air conditioning, and as humans they are likely to be susceptible to heat stroke.  also, it seems there has been an increase in dangerous weather patterns, such as flooding caused by heavy precipitation events or increases in wildfires, that could effect those tribal societies, which they may not be prepared for.

granted i don't know specifically what sort of tribal society you're referring to.  perhaps there will be some sort of bedouin migration to cooler climates.

volunteer's suggestion of blaming obama is pretty wise.  if we put the whole thing on one person's shoulders, we can pretend we have no personal responsibility for anything. 

thanks obama! 

we're supposed to be educated professionals that have an interest in protecting public health and safety.  maybe, as gregory says above, we're already screwed and it's too late.  however, pretending that climate change just means we'll have to set the thermostat a degree or two cooler is not the right reaction.  the fox news education makes us all look stupid.  even if you're not going to try to fix the problem, i would only ask that you try to understand it, don't lie to yourself or others about it, and don't blame everyone else for your problems.

May 20, 14 10:56 am

Expecting leadership from our leaders is so passé? And one person's shoulders? How about a whole army of corrupted academics that are chasing government grants? As for global warming we are supposed to have warmer temperatures, but the temperatures are cooler; we are supposed to be having more hurricanes, we have less; we are supposed to be having more tornados, they are at an all time low. And Al Gore tells us that the science is "settled", when the first rule of science is that it is never absolute.

May 20, 14 11:16 am

Curt, you are making a straw man argument.  No one said anything about turning thermostat a few degrees cooler.  No one said Obama is single handed causing global warming.  You said that.  I actually understand the issue quite well.   You on the other hand seem to view the world in a very simplistic way.  A green roof on a library or a office complex with a solar array slapped on the roof will not even slightly affect climate change.  To mitigate the weather patterns of the planet it would require a mass cooperation from all nations, a complete reworking of our economies, a complete dismantling of the corporate power structures that profit from big agriculture, oil, mining, etc.   that's a pie in the sky dream.  We can't even stop blowing each other up.  There is no way that we can all make the changes needed to stop the planet from warming in the short window we have. We can't even scratch the surface.  To ignore that reality is pretty insane if you ask me.  Also, the current growth dependent economy that we have is in direct opposition to sustainability.  We would literally have to create a new economy based off of homeostatic balance rather than one based on perpetual growth.  Not happening.   Sorry to burst your bubble but most people are greedy and simply don't care.  We can either continue to strive for the possible or we can make local changes that will prepare us for the inevitable changes that are coming.   IMO, the most important things to do is to create community.   Community will make us much more capable of surviving.  Next would be decentralization or resources like food and water.  Lastly, we need to conserve forests and protect the remaining natural biomes from further damage.  Also, we need to change our mindset and become more enlightened individuals so that we are mentally strong enough to live without the things that won't be available.  

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
May 20, 14 11:26 am

Some basic observations:

1) curt is being sarcastic.

2) Volunteer is not.

3) We have the ability - but not the will - to fix all of these things.

4) We're fucked.

5) Which is very profitable for some.

6) At least in the short term.

May 20, 14 11:38 am


1) JonathanLivingston is going to address climate change with an air conditioner

Turning up the AC when it gets hotter is in some sense how the vast majority of people are going to deal with climate change.

2) volunteer associated obama's trips to hawaii in christmas with global warming.

just this Christmas he flew the taxpayer's 747 from DC to Hawaii,

3) i never mentioned green roofs.  what i said is:

even if you're not going to try to fix the problem . . .   

i don't care if we kill off all life on earth.  i'm not going to live forever anyway, and i don't have any kids at the moment so your not killing my progeny.  jonathan seems to show quite the misunderstanding of the potential down-side to climate change if he thinks designing a building envelope that will allow the occupants to be comfortable with their extra air conditioner adequately address the concern.  warm summer days is not the concern by the way.  that could be dealt with.

volunteer blaming the democrats, or the liberals, or the academics is beyond stupid.  the climate isn't political.  certainly some policies could be critiqued, but if you did that you might find cap and trade is more of a good idea than a bad idea, but fox news won't support that.  read the reports, not some 30 second sound bite from the far right media.  all i was asking is, try to be less stupid.  talk about the issue as if you understand some of the real concerns, rather than just blaming obama.  if it's only news on fox news, it isn't news at all.

May 20, 14 12:26 pm

@ jla-x, Don't you love that term sustainable growth? What an oxymoron! 

I think this statement is spot on 

"The most important things to do is to create community.   Community will make us much more capable of surviving.  Next would be decentralization or resources like food and water.  Lastly, we need to conserve forests and protect the remaining natural biomes from further damage.  Also, we need to change our mindset and become more enlightened individuals so that we are mentally strong enough to live without the things that won't be available."

The ironic thing about most of these green initiatives is they are encouraging things that do create stronger more resilient communities better able to cope with environmental change. I think that is why the whole environmental movement has been widely adopted, and championed by a vocal few. It does do good things, just like most major religions.

The notion that this is all about saving the planet, correcting a course and applying guilt for actions far outside our individual control however is absurd. A reality check and assessment of why these actions are truly important would go a long way in helping us implement positive action then fear mongering and nostalgia. As a greater majority of the world equips itself to deal with the future they can then help those who cannot. 

Higher insulated wall assemblies allow us to deal with a greater temperature fluctuation.

Better sites with more on site infiltration help deal with a larger amount of precipitation.

Stronger structural systems to withstand larger storms and earthquakes.

Favorable locations where climate change will not have as negative an effect.

Increased infrastructure for alternative methods of transportation.

Denser living to limit transportation expenses.

New food sources that thrive in a different climate.

Advanced systems for distributing the innovation developed as the problems get worse. 

Just a few examples of things still in-line with the environmental dogma but for a different reason. All of which really have nothing in-line with using less energy. Society just can't exist on truly net zero energy. Independent energy sources can be more stable, and that is for sure also a good thing, but not at the cost of other advancement. Civilization is built on sharing things not seclusion. In fact turning up that AC as you would like to characterize it Curtham, would work with the existing course of events to bring the demand for that needed change quicker and with a purpose. So we can try to change the past or we can plot for the future. 

May 20, 14 12:31 pm

We are all screwed.  That's my point.   If a problem can't possibly be avoided then the only logical thing to do is to prepare for the fallout the best we can.  People in certain areas will experience certain specific problems.  Some places will suffer drought others will suffer from flooding.  There is no single fix it solution.  The fixes are all very locally specific.  People in LA will face a much different series of problems than people in Nebraska or rural China.  The 2030 challenge is bullshit because it directs resources towards preventing a problem that cannot be prevented any longer.  It's too late.  We rarely see preparation being taken seriously because its not sexy enough.  It's a bummer.  Who wants to think about that stuff.  Meanwhile people who are prepping (despite their doing so in an individualist way rather than a communitarian way which would be more effective and less assholish) are made out to be whackos and extremists.  Personally, I think we should be creating small localized challenges that are tailored around our specific communities and specific climates.   

For instance, in suburbia we can begin to integrate rainwater harvesting, small community gardens, etc.  in NYC we should be seriously planning flood control strategies.  

May 20, 14 1:11 pm

I would argue that we are not at all screwed. We just have a perspective on the future that we have never had before because of the development of scientific practices, metrics and awareness. We have existed in a world that has been in flux as long as we can remember, we are just less blissfully ignorant of it. We can argue that the rate of change is increasing but I don't think that is any reason not to be optimistic that life and lifestyle will find a way to cope. I find myself rather fortunate to be in a profession where I can utilize that perspective to create better work. 

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
May 20, 14 5:14 pm

The best metaphor I've heard for our situation is from David Suzuki.

May 20, 14 6:07 pm

^ So if we were a bacteria in this metaphor I would be arguing for life outside of the test tube. Or at the very least how do create a place within that condition of full. These are things architecture can have serious impact on, as opposed to trying to slow or reverse the situation. 

May 20, 14 7:08 pm

@Miles Jaffe - Your posts are always very insightful and spot on. Thank you.

Scale is key here. The scale of the solution needs to fit the scale of the problem.

Climate change is a global problem and requires global solutions. The only way to effect a global solution is through policy. It's been done before with the phasing out of CFC's through international treaty in response to ozone depletion.

I doubt that net-zero energy will gain traction unless it is mandated from the very top down. Policy will drive economics and these will in turn drive architecture. Net-zero energy may come about, but it will only come about if it's the most economical way to do business. For instance, if there's a heavy tax on carbon, it may make net-zero energy construction the cheapest option.

May 20, 14 7:12 pm

life outside the test tube means you're going to go live in space, or on some other planet?  didn't paolo soleri design a big spaceship?

May 20, 14 7:14 pm

Well, consumption of fuel in the US is down, miles driven are down so much some states are complaining they are not getting enough tax gas revenues to maintain the roads. So "exponential growth" is already off the table in many aspects of our society. People are buying smaller houses and working from home and not driving to work at all. Kinda off-message but when have facts ever gotten in the way of a good story? Especially from all-knowing scientists.

May 20, 14 8:12 pm
May 20, 14 8:26 pm


You'd clearly rather not bother reading or addressing any criticism and play the genetic fallacy card instead. But don't expect anyone to take you seriously if you do.

And by "move on", you seem to mean "give the alarmists everything they want without any discussion or argument." Seems legit. Oh. Wait. Never mind. It's actually complete bullshit.

May 20, 14 8:51 pm

My understanding of climate change puts very little agency into the hands of architects. According to the IPCC 4th assessment report, the positive feedback cycles already in place will continue to result in anthropogenic warming and rising sea levels for many centuries even with stabilization - or even if every human being were suddenly wiped off the face of the planet right this very instant. Because of how complex climate/ecologies are, we're still experiencing the effects of pre-industrial human activity. Given this massive of an issue, and given that architects are involved in the construction of what, ~4% of all buildings (at least in the US), I don't think our profession is going to solve much of anything. I would hedge bets on tech that can convert atmospheric carbon into usable energy, though of course reduction in emissions in the first place can't hurt. 

That's not to say that good building/building systems design can't ease the passage, however. Along with risk anticipation (especially in coastal/flood zones), there's the potential to design building networks that run on a more robust energy system. It's no longer about treating the building as an isolated system - that's a pretty antiquated notion at least in the scientific community - but rather as a member of a larger infrastructure. Tighter envelopes/ daylighting / thermal masses/ etc will help on the small scale, but on the large one we'll have to start thinking about networks of buildings and how the waste products of one (excess heat, eg) can be converted into energy for another. 

That's why I think the perspective on net-zero objectives is off - it's not about balancing the input-output equation, it's about reserving higher quality energy like electricity for higher quality activities like wasting time on Archinect forums, instead of heating buildings that could've been heated with passive solar. We're trying to reduce inefficiencies not because we want to consume less energy, but actually so we can consume more, except smart-like. Without exceeding our system constraints. And destroying our species.

If people are interested: Lotka, Odum, Ulanowicz & co. have a lot to say about energy + society. John May also has an entertaining piece, Against Sustainability, critiquing its oversimplification and politicization.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
May 20, 14 11:02 pm

So "exponential growth" is already off the table in many aspects of our society.

All growth is exponential. Look it up. It's mathematics. That's a branch of science. You can look that up, too.

pale shelter
May 21, 14 12:58 am

I'm not too optimistic about technology solving the energy crisis: energy-intensive, high-embodied energy products like triple-glazed krypton gas windows, special phase change gels, polycyreneisotate, super coolant a/c units...and my favorite 'carbon trees'  and CO2 scrubbers that the engineers are working on with government grants that capture our co2 along interstates (the future may be full of fake plastic trees and the buzz of amazon shipping drones... yuck!). We're awarding platinum LEED buildings of which many have been proven to expend more energy than a standard bldg... or involve too much embodied energy in high-price complex goods to achieve 'points'... or they just pay the fee to the energy company so they can wash their hands free of the real carbon they use...

Are there any studies on embodied energy and its relationship to what qualifies as "sustainable?".... In other words: what is the embodied energy to make a single TESLA vs. just driving a 1984 Oldsmobile ? Total carbon IN to make the product needs to be considered as part of the WHOLE energy use cycle.

I always think: complexity leads to more complexity... and if we're in need of a simple outcome (which is using far less energy)..then simple solutions are inherently the best goal in mind. 

May 21, 14 6:58 am

A reduction in automobile miles driven is not "exponential growth". A reduction in the amount of fuel consumed is not "exponential growth". People preferring smaller homes and working out of their homes with NO commuting costs is not "exponential growth", or growth of any kind.

May 21, 14 9:11 am

anyway, i'm sure trail.runner now sees what's holding us back.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
May 21, 14 9:43 am

Volunteer, you have an exceedingly narrow view. Global population, energy use, resource (ab)use, etc. are all growing. Exponentially. As do US figures in every category. And some of your "facts" are either wishful thinking or just pure delusion.

Median House Size in U.S. Hits Record High

A little research goes a long way. Oh, sorry, I forgot that you don't believe in science.

May 21, 14 11:34 am

I do see there are a large number of things holding us back, but only so many that I can control and help as a person. I think if we all think the whole world is screwed and don't even try, then we have a bigger problem on our hands. There are so many people who want to come up with solutions for climate change, and since buildings take up a large piece of the "energy pie" I think it is a great place to start. 

And we are trying to do real research with real science. So much of architecture is pondering theory, but we like data. 

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
May 21, 14 1:08 pm

When >97% of legislation passed in the US is directly contrary to the vast majority of public opinion, it is hard to imagine that any political action will be in our interest.

May 21, 14 2:07 pm

We will only see action when the problems begin to threaten the pockets of the elite.  These rich elitists will suck out every penny that they can until the system breaks.  Look at the 2008 crash.   Many saw it coming and still continued to exacerbate the problem out of pure greed.  

This is not a design problem, its a social problem.  The optimism that is often preached with the 2030 challenge, LEED, etc is harmful because it creates a false sense of power.  It pushes the idea that there is nothing wrong with our systems core but rather its form.  This is wrong. 

May 21, 14 2:36 pm

From the article curtkram linked above:

"They aren't worried about what the weather could be like in a 100 years or 10. Should they be? Yes. We are already seeing the effects of climate change. Severe weather is occurring more regularly. This past winter was one of the most severe ones in recent years. The worst flash floods in more than a century are impacting parts of Europe. And, wildfires are hitting California earlier than ever as they deal with severe drought."

This is one of the more retarded things I've seen written on this subject lately, and that's already a pretty high bar.

Even the IPCC says there has been no increase in severe weather frequency or severity over the last several decades. This kind of thing is just media alarmism.

May 21, 14 2:54 pm

gw, the science is pretty certain.  I have no doubts that the planet is warming.  If you went to 100 doctors and 99 told you that you had a tumor you would probably be convinced.  Increasing CO2 raises earths temp.  We have known this for a long time.  This is not a theory its basic elementary science.  What we do or can do is up for debate but climate change is a fact. 

May 21, 14 3:24 pm

"The optimism that is often preached with the 2030 challenge, LEED, etc is harmful because it creates a false sense of power. "


"There are so many people who want to come up with solutions for climate change, and since buildings take up a large piece of the "energy pie" I think it is a great place to start." 

This is false, the number of people who are naive enough to think they can solve a process that has been going on since the beginning of the industrial revolution, is so very very small compared to the world population.  

So how do we act responsibly from there? What is the appropriate response? Would it not be at least some level of acceptance and then designing for the environment that will exist? I'm not saying most of the tenants of the "green dogmas" don't do that. They do. and you can sell them to clients that way. You can make a positive influence on individual situations, creating buildings with a greater longevity in the coming environment. But you can't sell them through the pie in the sky altruistic idea. 

May 21, 14 4:16 pm

Even the IPCC says there has been no increase in severe weather frequency or severity over the last several decades. This kind of thing is just media alarmism.

i'm not sure you're interpreting their comments correctly

the problem as i see it is that a real analysis of weather events is complicated.  there are a lot of factors other than climate change, and even factors outside the influence of people, that cause those events to happen.  unfortunately an intelligent scientist studying the climate and weather patterns is going to understand that, and not simplify their findings into the 30 second soundbyte a radio show host might give to his low-attention span audience.  so 'climate change alone isn't causing these severe weather events' quickly becomes 'climate change isn't causing these sever weather events.'  it's easy to believe if you that's what you want to believe, and if you completely reject all other evidence.

as another example, you could say climate change likely causes an increase in heavy precipitation events.  this can contribute to flash flooding, but development and paving the planet also contributes to those floods.  so, the radio shock jock will tell you it's not climate change, it's paving the planet.  or, if they're really good at fooling the feeble minded, they will tell you it was the government (remember when everyone blamed the corps of engineers for flooding the country?).  blame obama first, right?  but, it doesn't take much smarts to know that obama didn't really cause that flooding.  while the corps of engineers did make decisions that effected how widespread that event was (some of those decisions dating back to before obama was elected), it's pretty obvious that the unusually high amount of rain also played a part.

of course, i don't have to analyze all of the relevant factors to these weather events.  i can trust the 97% of people in the field who are doing that analysis for me.  as an architect, i don't have the training they have in climate research, and i don't have the time to devote to the study like they do.  i would not say that i know more about the weather than 97% of the experts in that field, because my ego hasn't overshadowed my ability to accept real-life yet.  (getting closer though)

May 21, 14 4:22 pm

and then designing for the environment that will exist?

that's fine, but if you understand that there is a problem, then you would also understand you're just pushing it off to the next generation.  if you really think adding an air conditioner, or designing an air-tight building, or whatever other sort of increased efficiency solution you might have, is going to help fix the problem, then it suggests you don't understand what the problem is.

May 21, 14 4:27 pm

jla-x, you don't do science by consensus and authority. That's not how it works. The number of people who say something, and/or their credentials or positions in the official power structure, are entirely irrelevant to scientific knowledge.

You do science by making formally reasoned arguments, supporting them with experimental evidence, inferring predictions, and setting criteria for falsifiability, not by groupthink and public relations campaigns. The AGW alarmists have done none of those things except make predictions, ALL of which have been spectacularly and consistently wrong. They are doing something, that's for sure, but science ain't it.

Stating the trivial fact that C02 is a greenhouse gas is NOT the same thing as making a scientific argument for AGW. There are lots of greenhouse gases, and CO2 is not even the most significant of them (hint: water vapor is...are you going to strive for Net Zero Water Expiration now?). And climate changes all the time. It's been doing so for about four billion years now and will continue to do so for the remaining existence of this planet. That fact also has absolutely nothing to do with AGW or whether or not you spend heaps of money designing a building to be "carbon neutral".

And that global warming you're so convinced is happening? It's been absent for almost two decades now, even as worldwide human-generated C02 levels have been rising significantly. Yet another prediction failure by AGW.

Not that some global warming wouldn't be welcome. The global climate is currently cooler than it was during the classical greco-roman period.

But never mind all that. The important thing is that WE SHOULD ALL PANIC and make Al Gore rich on carbon credits. Amirite?

May 21, 14 4:30 pm

Curtham, gwharton, you seem stuck in the debate about a cause or climate changes existence which I don't think anyone is arguing. But I think he is rather pointing out there is debate over the severity of the impact that change will have. Either way its a moot point

So climate change is happening, there is nothing you can do to reverse it. What are YOU going to do now? You can't put up a couple of umbrellas over a lake and expect it slow the lake from filling. That's what all of these efforts in the name of reversing or mitigating climate change amount to. Now if you turn that umbrella upside down and use it as a boat that's a different story.

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