Obama's energy plan includes zero energy building codes nationwide for all new buildings starting by 2030, when buildings must then produce all their own energy.
California has already legislated this starting by 2020.
Architects already meet energy efficiency standards like title 24 in California: zero energy buildings are an easy next step for them.
Laws like Title 24 work to save money in the long run. Even if it costs a little more initially, it pays off in energy savings later.
Currently, LEED certified buildings generate a 6.6 percent improved return on investment. Zero energy buildings will do even better, because their energy costs are not just reduced. In the end they will have no energy costs at all.
Solar panels can be incorporated into the roof design in lieu of traditional roofing. Ground heat pumps can warm and cool buildings. Building from scratch already entails digging deep enough to build the earthquake-proof foundations that California building codes demand. Next time, we can pop a geothermal heat pump in there as well.
Zero energy laws won't meet resistance from the architectural design community, as we see with the auto industry. Architects and designers can brush up on new design innovation. They don't have to retool factories. Just mindsets.
So mandating zero energy building is an easier way to reduce carbon emissions, than car efficiency mandates like CAFE. Architecture is driven by individual designers who thrive on innovation, and seek out solutions to problems. And there is an industrial revolution happening in sustainable design and green building.
Design to prevent climate change is a technological and economic challenge, but it is not beyond us. Obama could even move the date up to 2020, like California.
Rolf Disch's solar village: Solarsiedlung