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Bruner/Cott & Associates The R.W. Kern Center at Hampshire College by Bruner/Cott Architects and Planners achieves net-zero energy and water and was built without red list products.

Yesterday, the AIA released the 2016 progress report on its AIA 2030 Commitment, a national initiative started in 2009 that provides a framework for projects by signatory firms to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. “The 2030 Commitment represents a key part of the AIA membership's dedication to combating climate change, particularly with the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” the AIA wrote in a press release.

In order to attain these net-zero goals, the AIA has incrementally adjusted targeted predicted energy use intensity savings (pEUI) by 10 percent every five years. Signatories have failed to reach the 70 percent pEUI goal for two years.

Below, ARCHITECT outlines the highlights of the report.

Results and Impact
According to the annual report, the AIA anticipates energy savings from projects completed in 2016 to equal 16.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions—equivalent to shutting down 4.9 coal-fired power plants. Though this number is down from 2015’s total project energy savings of 21 million metric tons, that decline is due to more precise estimation methodologies used this year. (The revised projected energy savings for 2015 using the new methodology results in 15.1 million metric tons of emissions.)

Based on average commercial rates for natural gas and electricity in the U.S., savings due to energy reductions from 2016 projects are expected to total $1.4 billion in the United States, with $3.1 billion from combined international and domestic projects.

Courtesy AIA

While the number of firms reporting grew 15 percent to 175 firms, only six firms achieved an average of the targeted 70 percent or more savings across their portfolio, while another 16 achieved average pEUI savings between 60 and 70 percent. (Names of firms that attained these savings were not listed in the report.) However, vice president of Washington D.C.–based SmithGroup JJR and 2030 committee co-chair Greg Mella, FAIA, sees a silver lining: "Based on what I’ve seen from firms engaged in the program," he says, "the 2030 Commitment is a catalyst for firms to change their design culture to embed performance-based design thinking into their design process." On average, whole building projects in 2016 still fell short of the organization's target, with only 42 percent pEUI savings—although this number is up from 38 percent in 2015.

Overall, total reported projects increased by 33 percent in 2016, now standing at 7,348 projects—a number that is largely attributed to increased reporting on smaller-scale projects—with gross square footage of buildings reaching 2.7 billion. Interior-only projects also jumped 48 percent to 6,604.

Courtesy AIA

Energy Modeling
The report upholds last year’s findings that energy modeling is key to predicting and achieving energy reduction. Despite this, instances of energy modeling fell from 52 percent of projects in 2015 to just 32 percent of projects in 2016. Mella described this change as causing "some alarm" and "odd" given "how accessible energy modeling has become to the profession, [as it is] largely integrated with the software tools teams are already using." To help reverse this trend, the AIA is looking to update The Architect’s Guide to Integrating Energy Modeling in the Design Process from 2012. Overall pEUI reduction still improved, however, largely due to the success of energy codes.

Energy modeling in 2015 versus 2016.
Courtesy AIA Energy modeling in 2015 versus 2016.

Get Involved
To pledge your commitment to carbon neutral projects visit 2030ddx.aia.org.

Read the full report below:

2030 By the Numbers by architectmag on Scribd

Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Greg Mella, FAIA.