Architecture 2030 update for the AIA 2030 Commitment
by Erin McDade, Assoc. AIA
From the Industrial Revolution beginning in the late 1700s until 2005, U.S. building energy consumption and CO2 emissions grew steadily as building floor area increased. Each year, we added about 3 to 5 billion square feet in building stock, and those buildings needed energy—electricity, natural gas, heating oil—to operate, driving up the sector's consumption and emissions. Since 2005, however, something extraordinary has happened: building floor area growth in the U.S. has continued to steadily increase, but building operational energy consumption has flattened and building operational emissions are on a steady decline.
Multiple factors play a role in this decoupling, including increasingly abundant affordable renewable energy, but this change is driven in no small part by those designing, planning, and constructing our built environment, led by AIA 2030 Commitment signatories. As the urgency for immediate emissions reductions has grown, 2030 Commitment signatories have forged the path towards zero carbon design, collectively demonstrating how to transform best practices and empower an entire profession - from small offices to international firms - in response to the global climate crisis.
The power of this group of leaders committed to the transformation of an entire profession has not gone unnoticed: inspired by the success of 2030 Commitment signatories, leaders in the broader design and construction industry have implemented complementary commitments, including the Climate Positive Design Challenge for landscape architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure 2050 and SEI SE2050 Commitments, MEP 2040, the AIA’s A&D Materials Pledge, and the Contractor’s Commitment.
As industry alignment and transformation continues, AIA 2030 Commitment signatories are designing to increasingly stringent emissions reduction targets. This includes the 2021 announcement by Architecture 2030 (whose flagship 2030 Challenge inspired the AIA 2030 Commitment), that the 2030 Challenge had been accelerated and now calls for all new construction and major renovations to achieve zero operational emissions. To support this goal, Commitment signatories can now use the DDx to not only document energy efficiency improvements, but also track the types of fuel used to power projects and account for the impacts of on- and off-site renewable energy in achieving emissions reductions. A project that meets the latest energy efficiency codes (currently ASHRAE 90.1-2022 or 2021 IECC), using all electric equipment, and harvesting or procuring enough renewable energy to meet demand, will achieve 2030 Challenge and Commitment operational emissions targets.
True to its leadership role, the AIA and its 2030 Commitment signatories are also tackling the flip side of building emissions, adding the ability to document the embodied carbon impacts of building design to the DDx and encouraging signatories to account for and manage whole-life carbon as standard practice. The transition from operational to whole-life carbon accounting has been accelerated by the growth of the 2030 Commitment’s sister initiatives, and thanks to the leadership of AIA 2030 Commitment signatories, the U.S. design, planning, and construction industries are unified around the collective decarbonization of the built environment, establishing a global model for transformative change.