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2030 Commitment for Small Project Practitioners KC!

  • 1.  2030 Commitment for Small Project Practitioners KC!

    Posted 04-19-2019 10:45 AM
    The 2030 Commitment - Be Part of the Solution!
    by Nathan Kipnis, FAIA - Principal of Kipnis Architecture + Planning
    and national co-chair of the AIA's 2030 Commitment Working Group

    One of the best things I can think of for members of the Small Project Practitioners KC to do for this Earth Day is to consider becoming a signatory to the AIA's 2030 Commitment.

    Hardly a day goes by that significant environmental impacts caused by climate change are highlighted on the news. It is clear from scientific study as well as imperial evidence that the climate is indeed changing and that greenhouse gas emissions from humans are the cause. One only needs to study the chart showing CO2 concentrations over time to see the direct correlation between CO2 and temperature and its literal 'off the chart' variation that started when the emissions from the Industrial Revolution began.
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    In 2006, Ed Mazria, architect and founder of Architecture 2030, established the 2030 Challenge as an initiative for the construction industry to bring awareness to the impact that they could have in reducing CO2 emissions. Architecture 2030's mission is to 'rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate and energy crisis.' The goal of the 2030 Challenge is to achieve carbon neutral new construction by 2030. Graduated targets in five-year increments were set as the guide for achieving this goal.

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    The 2030 Commitment

    In 2006, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) immediately adopted these targets and in 2008 established the 2030 Commitment to meet them. Architects sign on to the Commitment in a three-part process.
    Step one is to sign a commitment letter to the AIA. Step two is to produce a Sustainability Action Plan which documents a firm's unique list of office procedures and project goals that contribute to making progress on the 2030 Challenge. And finally, the firm is to record in the Design Data Exchange (DDx) their project's predicted Energy Use Intensity (pEUI) relative to an established baseline. This information can be found at

    The DDx is the platform set up the AIA to allow firms to enter their projects modeled energy performance anonymously and track progress as projects advance through the design process as well as seeing how the firm's average changes over time. Much like a hybrid or electric car's dashboard provides valuable feedback on energy use, the DDx allows designers to see the impact of design decisions on the energy performance of their buildings, the earlier on in the design process the better.

    The Value Proposition
    The current 2030 Commitment report notes that over 3.2 billion square feet of space was reported for 2017. As of April, 2019, there are over 575 firms signed on to the 2030 Commitment. These firms include small, medium and large firms. The majority of the square footage reported is, perhaps not surprisingly, from the largest architectural firms. For these firms, implementing the 2030 Commitment program has provided a productive value proposition. Gaining an understanding of the impact of their design decisions, early in the process through energy modeling, improves the performance of their buildings, which is beneficial to their clients as well as for the environment. Many firms see an improvement in the quality of their designs. When a portfolio of projects has been tracked over time, knowledge can be gleaned about the energy efficiency impact that certain design decisions have on specific building types.

    However, small firms and firms specializing in residential design can collectively have a huge impact. Single family residential design has the largest average pEUI % savings increase by far of any of the major reported categories (see the chart below), being the only category whose median is hitting the current 2030 target. I attribute this to the growing list of quality programs and websites dedicated to high performance single family homes. These include websites like the Green Building Advisor, and standards like LEED, Passive House, Living Building Challenge, and the DOE's Net Zero Ready program, among others.

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    Don't Let Typical 2030 Myths Stop You from Joining
    Over time I have heard many concerns about signing onto the 2030 Commitment. The following are five common 'myths'.

    'It takes too much time'
    It typically takes 30 minutes or less per project to gather and input the data into the DDx. For single family homes, it is perhaps 15 minutes a project.

    'It requires too many resources'
    The program is free and personalized mentorship is available.

    'I may have poor performing projects in my portfolio'
    We probably all do. Not to worry as all data is aggregated and anonymous.

    'I'll have to achieve the 2030 target'
    Making progress from project to project and year to year is much more important than meeting the target. There isn't a 'Green Police' department to enforce this - the program is completely voluntary. Don't get hung up on the word 'commitment'!

    'My project has to be complete before I enter it into the DDx'
    The 2030 Commitment is specifically set up to establish energy targets early in the design process and track progress.

    The Revolution will be Data Driven!
    Members of the Small Project Practitioners KC will be seeing more and more clients wanting their homes to have as low emissions and high performance as possible. I know it is sometimes easy to feel that you're overwhelmed with what clients are requesting and that this is not as important as other aspects you are already incorporating. It really does matter, and becoming a signatory to the 2030 Commitment is a key step in making a huge difference that comes from all of us acting as a group to be part of the solution!

    To sign on to the AIA's 2030 Commitment, go to this link.

    Nathan Kipnis FAIA
    Kipnis Architecture + Planning
    Evanston IL
    PM Lunch with 2023 AIA Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, FAIA. June 6, Washington, DC. Click here to learn more!