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Charting a Course for 2030


Tristan Roberts.

The 2030 challenge, which calls for an immediate 50 percent reduction in fossil fuel use in new buildings, and climate-neutral buildings by 2030, quickly gained legitimacy when it was adopted by the American Institute of Architects in December 2005 and subsequently by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. However, organizations like USGBC and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) weren’t prepared to sign on until they knew how the goals would be measured. Additionally, architect Edward Mazria, AIA, who launched the challenge and promotes it through his organization, Architecture 2030, initially eschewed specifics.

Photo Courtesy Jim Frazier
Leading organizations grapple with measuring their commitments to carbon emissions reductions.
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A roundtable meeting at the November 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver brought the goals of Architecture 2030 and these professional groups into alignment with the goals, and established a common yardstick to guide their work. Meetings following Greenbuild have involved over 20 additional organizations, and leaders expect to involve a growing pool of collaborators, making the Denver alignment all the more significant.

At the meeting, “everyone agreed that the 2030 Challenge would be viewed as an overlay so that each group would develop its own tools—each membership needs different kinds of things,” said Mazria. The organizations agreed to use as a baseline the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), which reports average site energy use and energy cost by existing buildings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has modified its Target Finder tool, which is based on the energy consumption survey, to highlight the 50 percent goal. Energy use reductions will be measured in kBtu-per-square-foot and dollars-per-year savings, using regionalized site Energy Use intensity data.

Both ASHRAE and USGBC, which references ASHRAE Standard 90.1 in its LEED Rating System, are working to calibrate their performance targets with CBECS. ASHRAE is updating 90.1, and “by 2010 it will be 30 percent more stringent than in 2004,” says Terry Townsend, president of ASHRAE, which he estimates will represent a 58 percent reduction compared with CBECS. The council is working to reduce the carbon emissions in LEED buildings by requiring at least two energy optimization points and a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions for all projects. To guide rating system users in achieving that reduction through various LEED credits, USGBC plans to introduce, in early 2007, what has been called a “2030 overlay,” or a “carbon overlay” to LEED. The AIA’s efforts are focusing on education, including “developing a ‘50 ways to get to 50 percent’ toolkit,” says its president, RK Stewart, FAIA.

For USGBC, increasing the stringency of its rating system may be enough to achieve 50 percent, but it will need a lot more to reach climate neutral status, or 100 percent net carbon reductions. “That will be a learning process for us,” says Michelle Moore, USGBC’s spokesperson, noting, “we will look to our leading innovators in the LEED users group to see how we might adapt our own programs.” ASHRAE is also looking ahead. “By 2020 we will have prescriptive guidance for net-zero buildings,” says Townsend.

Not wanting to ignore the huge carbon emissions impact of the existing building stock, the coalition plans to eventually apply the 2030 Challenge, which addresses new construction and major renovations, to existing buildings as well. The ultimate goal of incorporating the 2030 Challenge into local building codes depends in large part on early adopters. “It’s the next big step,” says Mazria, noting that his group has talked with California, which has a legal commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Once they decide how they are going to approach this, they will be a model for the rest of the country,” he says.

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This article appeared in the January 2007 print issue of GreenSource Magazine

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