New report outlines progress of 2030 Commitment
AIA’s 2030 Commitment is an actionable climate strategy that gives us a set of standards and goals for reaching net zero emissions in the built environment by 2030. Since 2009, signatories of the 2030 Commitment create a sustainability action plan for their firm with the help of AIA resources and education, and are urged to report the predicted energy performance of all projects in their portfolio each year.
Doubling its signatories in the last five years, the AIA 2030 Commitment continues to be a part of leading the built environment profession in addressing the climate crisis with more than 56,000 AEC professionals represented among the 1100+ committed firms.
Reflecting 20,652 projects from 417 firms, a ten percent increase from the year prior, a newly released By the Numbers report for the 2021 reporting year measures how far architects have come in this initiative and shows how far there is to go.
In 2021, for the second year in a row, signatories of the AIA 2030 Commitment reported their predicted energy use intensity (pEUI) data with an 80% reduction target. The program's target will go up to 90% in 2025 and to 100% full carbon neutrality, in 2030.
Key takeaways from the 2021 By the Numbers report include:
- 12,783 whole building projects totaling 3.1 billion gross square feet were reported in 2021 and achieved an average pEUI reduction of 50.3%.
- 5.5% of whole building gross square footage reported in 2021 met the 80% target, an increase from 4.3% in 2020. This represents 161,625,553 gross square feet and 748 projects.
- In 2021, 2030 Commitment signatories reported 505 all-electric buildings, up 67% from 2020.
- 276 whole building projects were reported as net-zero in 2021, representing both 2.1% of projects and gross square footage. 67,399,844 gross square feet were reported as net-zero in total in 2021.
“Frankly, one of the most interesting metrics is that we’re only tracking about a 50 percent reduction over our original baseline while the current target is 80 percent,” said 2030 Commitment Co-Chair Ashley Mulhall, AIA, High Performance and Sustainable Design Leader at Orcutt Winslow. “We’ve plateaued as an industry and we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of it and help firms get past that hurdle.”
Citing the pandemic, supply-chain disruptions, and an uneven political landscape as major factors for the “2021 slog”, the overall 50.3% pEUI reduction is slightly lower than the 51.3% reduction in 2020 but represents a strong overall trajectory, increasing from 35% in 2010.
“There was an increase in signatories, which means a lot of firms are just getting started and moving a bit slower, said Mulhall. “But we also need to stop thinking of 80 percent as our target, and making movements towards 100 percent net zero as the real target. That’ll move the needle faster.”
While overall numbers aren’t exactly where the 2030 Commitment initially hoped, there’s major optimism that this trajectory is promising.
“This is like running a marathon,” said 2030 Commitment Co-Chair Vanessa Hostick, AIA, Sustainable Design Leader at HOK. “You don’t wake up and say ‘I’m going to run the Boston marathon today,’ you start slow, you build your successes, you make some lifestyle changes. You don’t run 26 miles on the first day.”
“You train. There are changes that are hard when make this commitment, but we have a group of people here to help you. Over time you start to hit the mark,” said Hostick. “People often say ‘it takes too long,’ it doesn’t, this process gets quicker over time. People say, ‘it’s expensive,’ it’s not you just use what you have and build into it more later. People say, ‘well no one at my firm cares,’ I promise you they’ll care if you care. Do more encouraging than yelling, you’ll get there it takes time and it’s not always perfect.”
Both Mulhall and Hostick encourage any firm, small, medium, or large, to sign up for the 2030 Commitment as soon as they can. They encouraged any architect who may be interested in participating to connect with AIA to learn more.
“I don’t think most architects recognize how much of an impact they can have on climate change. We tend to feel helpless, but the reality is architects can have a huge impact,” said Mulhall. “Once you start on that path the lift gets lighter. It gets simpler, and you really begin to make a difference.”
While working to combat climate change is the goal of the Commitment, Hostick believes there are multiple benefits for firms who sign up.
“There’s an environmental impact for signing up, by helping to understand your carbon footprint and there’s a financial impact, adjusting to a zero-carbon plan will help you save in the long term. No matter where your priorities lie there is something here to help you get there, and there’s a framework to get there,” she said.
"There’s an environmental impact for signing up, by helping to understand your carbon footprint and there’s a financial impact, adjusting to a zero-carbon plan will help you save in the long term. No matter where your priorities lie there is something here to help you get there, and there’s a framework to get there.” - Vanessa Hostick, AIA
There are myriad benefits to joining the 2030 Commitment--for you, your firm, and your clients. You’ll gain access to anonymous, confidential data from leading AIA firms’ projects worldwide.
As a participant, you’ll:
- help clients save money by further integrating energy analysis and metrics into your practice;
- boost your firm profile by developing new sustainability approaches and creating a firm culture that exemplifies sustainable design;
- be provided a tool that will allow you to benchmark energy metrics, set targets, track progress, and validate your design approach for energy savings;
- be part of a growing cadre of firms who are working to combat climate change through education, energy modeling and advocacy;
- be able to track your data and see your firm’s impact compared to firms in your region.
Read the 2030 Commitment by the Numbers Report for a variety of valuable insights here.