Posted in practice on September 15, 2014 4:47 pm EDT

What does the 2030 Challenge mean for AECs?

The 2030 Challenge and the AIA 2030 Commitment ask the global architectural and building community to adopt strategies to get to carbon neutral buildings by 2030. A Designer exclusive investigates progress toward the goal.











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TAGS: architecture, education, energy efficiency, sustainability,


By Cathy Hutchison

While designing fuel-efficient cars seems to get all the press, it is actually buildings that are responsible for the majority of our energy use. The 2030 Challenge and the AIA 2030 Commitment ask the global architectural and building community to adopt strategies to get to carbon neutral buildings by 2030. That means buildings would use no fossil fuel nor produce any GHG-emitting energy in operation. The motivation behind the 2030 Challenge is about reversing climate change.

"I believe we are going to have to solve the ecological crisis not out of a place of guilt or zeal but from a place of love. You can’t have healthy humans on an un-healthy planet."

—Roberto Chiotti, President, Larkin Architect Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Clients and the 2030 Challenge

“There is a lot of confusion about the terminology that we are throwing around as an industry,” comments James Theimer, principal at Trilogy Architecture in Redding, Calif. “We were surprised at how few firms committed to the 2030 Challenge. It isn’t calling for new buildings to be Net Zero; it is advocating for buildings to be carbon neutral. We are finding that many clients are more attuned than our industry is to these issues.”

Mamie Harvey, principal at Architectural Alliance in Minneapolis, finds that certain types of projects may more readily lend themselves to energy efficient strategies than others. “Because one of our focus areas has been science and technology projects—which have an opportunity to use a lot of energy or save a lot of energy—we have seen a real focus on the design of efficient systems. The emphasis crosses public and private market sectors. Strategies that can benefit the client in terms of payback are at the forefront, especially with long term or build-to-suit projects.”

And Harvey adds, “In Minnesota, projects [that] are publically funded are required to meet the Minnesota Sustainable Building 2030 (SB2030) energy standards. This legislation has raised awareness of 2030 for the architectural community in Minnesota.”

Some architects, like Roberto Chiotti, president of Larkin Architect Ltd. in Toronto, Ontario, report that design professionals are oftentimes the best versed in carbon neutral objectives. “We see the primary buy-in coming from the building industry profession—led by architects and engineers,” he notes. “A speculative developer is less likely to buy-in because they aren’t sure if the market will pay the price to achieve the goal. However, in projects where the end-users inhabit the buildings—especially in institutional projects—they benefit from the investment and often bring the consciousness to the process.”

Harvey adds that client support or lack thereof is often a driving factor in how projects are approached. “Where architects have a hard time meeting the goals of 2030 is when the payback for energy efficient systems is not of value to clients,” she says. “In those cases, building systems are rarely designed for efficiency. Architects can use more passive systems to meet the goals, but unless the projects are modeled for energy efficiency, we won’t know how well the design performs relative to 2030.”

Measurement is Key

“How easy the 2030 Challenge will be depends on how well we calculate our usage,” highlights Theimer. “That’s the on-grid question that has to get answered—and our industry isn’t yet doing a good job of it.”  continued >>