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As we accelerate ever faster to climate change’s warming limit of 2° C, after having already passed the 400 ppm CO2 threshold a few years ago, we have not witnessed a meaningful reduction in the energy use of the building sector. Unquestionably, there have been enormous strides in analysis and simulation, in the development of new technologies and materials, and in the integration of multiple disciplines to bring unprecedented resources and knowledge to the design of the built environment. As much as these strides have advanced our field, they have not only been unable to match the continuing rise in emissions, but they have not aggressively addressed the impacts of the rapid urban growth taking place globally. If our methods, materials, and tools have improved, have we perhaps been solving the wrong problems?
Michelle Addington is dean of The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, where she holds the Henry M. Rockwell Chair in Architecture.