Mixed Results in Design Projects Meeting Carbon Reduction Targets

More buildings are meeting certain goals, but energy intensity reduction results have flat lined

Washington, DC – October 5, 2016 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has produced a report assessing the work of firms that are part of the AIA 2030 Commitment, a voluntary initiative to commit their practice to advancing the AIA’s goal of carbon-neutral buildings by the year 2030 that began reporting performance data in 2010.

“We have made some progress in the overall program, with a noteworthy jump in the amount of buildings included in the report,” said Greg Mella, FAIA, Director of Sustainable Design at SmithGroupJJR and co-chair of the AIA 2030 Working Group. “But we are simply not making significant strides in crucial metrics that predict building performance. These findings should serve as a wake-up call to architects that there needs to be greater urgency to drive improved energy efficiency across their project portfolios if we are going to reach our ultimate carbon reduction goals.”

Highlights from the AIA 2030 Commitment: 2015 Progress Report include:

  • 152 firms submitted reports – a 9% increase from 2014
  • 2.6 billion gross square feet (GSF) represented in this data – a 8% increase
  • 5,982 whole building projects have been accounted for in this report – a 37% increase
  • 4,461 interiors only projects reported – a 16% increase
  • 614 design projects are meeting the 60% energy reduction target – a 42% increase
  • 38% average Predicted Energy Use Intensity reduction reported by firms – an increase of 1%
  • 10% of total GSF meeting the previous 60% carbon reduction target – a decrease of 4%
  • 4% of total GSF meeting the new 70% carbon reduction target
  • 59% of total GSF using energy modeling to predict operational energy consumption – a 9% increase

In aggregate, the energy saved from the projects accounted for in this report is approximately 21 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of running six coal-fired power plants or powering 2.2 million homes for a year (source: EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator).

“Seeing more firms including energy modeling into their workflow is one of the encouraging takeaways from this report,” said Andrea Love, AIA, Director of Building Science at Payette and co-chair of the AIA 2030 Working Group. “Architects are uniquely positioned to lead the energy modeling process and incorporate into their overall business strategy with their clients. This is exactly the sort of broad, cultural shift that is required to make serious inroads towards carbon reduction in buildings.”

2015 was the first year that firms used the new 2030 Design Data Exchange interactive tool that enables design teams to benchmark and target energy performance through a range of analytical aids to drive improved energy efficiency. Users of this tool are reporting that the ability to see immediate results on how their projects are performing has facilitated benchmarking and started conversations about efficiency options earlier in the design process. This has afforded them more ability to understand how the buildings will perform against baseline energy use.

For additional resources for architecture firms to develop greater high-performance building practices, click here.

About The American Institute of Architects

Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.