Creating Our Own Ladder to Climb

Architects Setting Policy Using the Climate Stabilization Triangle Method

  • Courtney Crosson University of Arizona


ABSTRACT: This paper addresses the pedagogical process of teaching architects to operate within a system of limited resources – by having them design the regulatory game to manage those resources. In 2015, the president of the University of Arizona (UA) signed a commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. In 2016, an upper-level architecture studio was planned in partnership with university administration to create a roadmap for the campus to achieve this neutrality commitment. The studio pedagogy was structured using the climate stabilization triangle method, originally pioneered by scientists Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, co-directors of the Princeton’s Climate Mitigation Initiative. Pacala and Socolow assert that rather than advancements from the lab bench or computational model, forthcoming answers to global warming will be provided by those that coordinate the implementation of a portfolio of existing solutions (Pacala 2004). Students created a climate stabilization triangle for the 2050 campus by projecting the future escalation of campus scope 1-3 carbon production and then coordinated existing mitigation strategies to reach a zero target. Each implementation given by the students had a stated funding strategy, policy outcome, and corresponding physical outcome for the campus. The UA is currently integrating the work as a chapter in the campus master plan for 2018. The paper argues that by designing their own ladder of regulations, students learn to dissect why policy exists, connect physical outcomes with policy mandates, and understand their work as an architect within the complexity of actors and objectives impacting global warming. Architects can play a central role in the growing imperative of climate planning if methodologically trained with the current research methods and analytical tools to address this challenge.


KEYWORDS: net zero, climate stabilization triangle, wedge diagram, carbon neutrality, campus master plan

How to Cite
Crosson, C. (2018). Creating Our Own Ladder to Climb. ARCC Conference Repository.