J. Carrier
J. Carrier

The 2030 Commitment is one of our most effective tools for advancing energy efficient design. And the latest report on 2019 progress illustrates that architects are taking action and making a difference.

Reporting firms recorded 3.3 billion gross square feet worth of projects across more than 100 countries. That’s nearly the size of New Mexico. And they achieved a 49% reduction in predicted energy use intensity—the greatest reduction in the program’s history.

As you know, the 2030 Commitment is a platform for architects, engineers, and owners to work together toward the architecture and design community’s goal of achieving a carbon neutral built environment by the year 2030. The Commitment aims to transform the practice of architecture to respond to the climate crisis in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project-based, and data-driven.

According to Architecture 2030, as much as 50% of a city’s greenhouse gas emissions can be produced by fewer than 5% of that city’s buildings. This is an issue that architects have the power to address.

To date, 829 companies have joined the Commitment. Even small firms can make a big impact. I can confirm that firsthand: Our small residential firm reported a 79% reduction last year.

Our data confirms that energy modeling is pivotal. In 2019 alone, projects that used energy modeling were 29% more energy efficient than non-modeled projects. Take the average medium-sized office building in Boulder, Colo. With an energy efficiency increase of 29%, that building could save 133,400 kilowatt hours of electricity and nearly $14,000 each year. Even if the building doesn’t hit the 2030 targets, that’s significant. If you’re not modeling, you’re leaving real energy and cost savings for clients on the table.

The 2030 Commitment also recognizes that operational carbon is just one piece of the climate action puzzle. To meet international targets, it’s critical to consider embodied carbon—meaning all the carbon emitted during the manufacturing and transport of materials and during building construction. Unlike operational carbon, which can be reduced during a building’s lifetime, embodied carbon is locked in as soon as a building is completed. It can never be recaptured.

That’s why we’re revamping the Design Data Exchange to enable firms to track whole building embodied carbon beginning this month.

When we launched the 2030 Commitment 10 years ago, signatories used an elaborate spreadsheet to calculate and report their performance. Now, through the Design Data Exchange, tracking is much easier. Firms can quickly visualize their portfolio projects and compare their projects to others around the world.

Architects know we can’t achieve progress alone. That’s why it’s so encouraging that engineering companies are joining the 2030 Commitment. Participation increased 22% last year, and we welcomed the program’s first building owner—a nonprofit affordable housing developer.

We’re committed to making the moral and financial case to clients to help them better understand the importance of energy efficient design that will make their buildings more sustainable, more resilient, and more economical. And as daunting as the challenge may seem, progress is happening: According to an Architecture 2030 analysis, building sector carbon dioxide emissions are down 21% since 2005—even though the United States added more than 47 billion square feet of built space over the same period.

After 10 years of the 2030 Commitment, we know that design changes can reduce climate impact significantly. We know progress is possible, and we have the technology and the knowledge to make an immediate impact.