A recent AIA report on architects’ progress toward the Institute's 2030 Commitment initiative found that the number of reported design projects meeting the carbon reduction target has increased by 200 percent from 2012. The AIA launched the program in 2009 as a voluntary initiative for firms and other entities in the built environment to pledge their advancement of the goal of achieving carbon neutral buildings by the year 2030. (The program differs from that of nonprofit organization Architecture 2030 in terms of scope—Architecture 2030 focuses on building energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, while the 2030 Commitment targets other issues as well).

The 2030 program measures energy efficiency by comparing predicted energy use intensity (pEUI) of buildings, or the anticipated building energy consumption of a project based on computer modeling. The pEUI is measured to a baseline of metered EUI values derived from 2001 and 2003 surveys of a representative sampling of U.S. building stock by the Energy Information Administration.

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Commercial Buidlings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) 2003 database serves as a widely used baseline EUI for measuring operational energy use and reductions.

Reporting is also based on site EUI, which measures the energy used at the building site, as opposed to source EUI, which measures what's used not only at the building level, but also includes the energy consumed for electricity generation, transmission, and storage. The AIA's focus is on analyzing the anticipated energy performance by using a site EUI baseline (derived from CBECS or other national surveys) for the designs of AIA member firms.

"I think we accomplished the goal, which is to actually know what your projects predict and be able to review to drive decision-making in the future," said Keelan Kaiser, AIA, of Chicago-based Serena Sturm Architects, whose firm has submitted 10 to 15 projects to the program annually for the past four years.

The program’s goal increases the pEUI from the current target of 60 percent to 70 percent in 2015. Kaiser discussed the "plateau at 60 percent reduction" that he believes will make it difficult for Serena Sturm and other firms to achieve the goal of 70 percent reduction next year. "There are only so many things to do to a building [to make it energy efficient]," he said.

The report states that 99 firms submitted data in 2013, a 10 percent decrease from 2012 that the AIA attributes primarily to the time and effort involved in tracking and inputting project data. To make the process easier and more accessible, the AIA has partnered with the Department of Energy to create the 2030 Design Data Exchange, an online reporting tool for firms to track how their project data stacks up against other similar projects in the AIA 2030 Commitment database. The tool will be available by January 2015.

Other key findings from the AIA’s 2030 Commitment 2013 Progress Report, which looked at data from 2,464 projects and 1.6 billion gross square feet (GSF), include:

  • Ninety-nine firms submitted reports, which is a 10 percent decrease from 2012.
  • A total of 401 design projects meet the 60 percent carbon reduction target (a 200 percent increase from 2012).
  • Participating firms reported a total of 73 net-zero projects, a 500 percent increase from 2012, .
  • Firms used energy modeling to predict operational energy consumption in 66 percent of total GSF, which is up 14 percent from 2012.
  • The average pEUI reduction reported by firms was 34 percent, a 3 percent decline from 2012.
  • Firms reduced the lighting power density of interior projects by an average of 19 percent, a 2 percent improvement in performance from 2012.
  • Seven percent of the total GSF in the database meets the current 60 percent carbon reduction target, which is down 7 percent from 2012.