Architects Join War on Global Warming
by Nick Welsh
For a carpenter, so the saying goes,
there are few problems that can’t be fixed with a hammer and nail.
Similarly, in Santa Barbara, where architectural review is
practiced as civic fetish, there are precious few problems that
can’t be solved by more intelligent design. To this end, Santa
Barbara’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has
thrown itself into the battle against global warming, teaming up
with the Community Environmental Council (CEC) to lead the charge
on City Hall beginning early next year. Together, the two
organizations hope to convince the city to decree that as of 2030
all new buildings approved within Santa Barbara city limits — both
public and private — will be carbon-neutral, meaning they will emit
no greenhouse gases. They also hope Santa Barbara will establish
more limited goals to be achieved within a decade: namely, that all
new or revamped city-owned structures must reduce their emissions
by 50 percent and all new or remodeled privately owned structures
must achieve a 20 percent reduction.
“This is the Holy Grail,” exclaimed City Councilmember Das
Williams. “This is the most substantial change we can make.”
Williams said the architects he consulted told him that the first
40 percent reduction should be relatively simple. “The next 10
percent might take some effort,” he said, adding that the
discrepancy between public and private improvements was not as
stark as it seems since state law already requires private homes to
achieve a 30 percent reduction in such emissions.
The 2030 Campaign is spearheaded by architect Joseph
Andrulaitis, who three months ago helped sponsor the forum
featuring internationally known green architect Edward Mazria.
Speaking at a packed Marjorie Luke Theatre, Mazria explained how
homes and buildings are responsible for 48 percent of the
greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. These are the
structures most desperately in need of attention and redesign, he
said. By contrast, Mazria said factories nationwide have produced
basically the same quantity of greenhouse gases over the past 50
years despite a huge increase in the number of factories; this is
largely because of design improvements.
Of the many public officials, architects, and builders who
turned out to hear Mazria speak, one suggested that solar power
should be required for all new projects covering 3,000 square feet
or more. Santa Barbara City Councilmember Brian Barnwell — inspired
by this and similar comments — walked out of the forum fortified
with an almost religious sense of mission, prompting him to push
Cottage Hospital to include as many solar units as possible on its
proposed St. Francis affordable housing project. Cottage responded
by threatening to withdraw its application and sell its property if
the council added one more condition of approval. Barnwell and his
council allies ultimately backed off. Ironically, Andrulaitis — the
2030 Campaign champion — is the business partner of Cottage’s
architect, Brian Cearnal.
Andrulaitis noted that many of the improvements could be made
with more thoughtful design and planning, rather than with
expensive new technologies. New structures should be built to
maximize passive solar energy, he said, thereby reducing the energy
needed to heat and cool buildings. But Andrulaitus conceded that to
achieve a genuinely carbon-neutral future, new and better
insulation, solar heating panels, and more efficient cooling
devices would all be required. These improvements will cost money
up front, he said, but will save money over the long haul.
A videotape of the Mazria speech was replayed last week to about
45 elected officials, advisory boardmembers, and land-use experts
in hopes of spreading his green building message as widely as
possible. In the same vein, the Santa Barbara City Council adopted
new solar power design guidelines this Tuesday in response to a new
state law that removes the authority to regulate and permit the
installation of most rooftop solar panels from local governments.
In recent years, rooftop solar panels have been the focus of some
aesthetic objection from both city officials and neighborhood
activists. The new guidelines are designed to identify the best
solar installation practices and reward those who follow them with
plaques of recognition.