Architects explore solutions to achieve carbon-neutral future

Lack of action by policymakers strengthens need for AIA’s 2030 Commitment.

Copenhagen, Denmark May 24, 2018The American Institute of Architects’(AIA) President Carl Elefante, FAIA, is calling on architects, industries and governments to do more to achieve a carbon neutral built environment by the 2050 deadline.

Elefante moderated a panel discussion—at the Alliance to Save Energy’s EE Global Forum in Copenhagen—where architects and industry leaders examined how we can better support carbon-reduction goals. The conversation focused on designing high-performance buildings, retrofitting the existing building stock, promoting renewable energy, reducing embodied carbon, and utilizing AIA’s 2030 Commitment program.

“The United States and Europe have made significant strides when it comes to designing high-performance buildings, but we face real challenges in retrofitting the existing building stock,” said Elefante. “Overcoming this is critical to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The time is now for our governments to implement effective programs, policies and incentives that will allow manufacturers, designers and specifiers to make progress towards a sustainable future.”

During the panel discussion, both architects and manufacturers cited public policy as a major roadblock to achieving 2050 goals.

“We need to remove the regulatory impediments to renewable energy growth, specifically the lack of uniform interconnection standards in the U.S.,” said Bergmeyer President Mike Davis, FAIA. “Our renewable energy and distribution generation laws are different state-to-state. Sometimes they vary within the states. That’s a serious impediment to mainstream growth. Approaching this one state at a time won’t get us there. It becomes a matter of good federal public policy.”

Building codes present other challenges.

“The code only takes us to approximately 40 percent,” said Building Codes Assistance Project President Maureen Guttman, AIA. “We have got to be building net-zero carbon, net-zero energy buildings right now. We can’t be building to basic building codes. If we don’t get new construction right today, we will never be able to get the resources necessary to address existing buildings and the carbon embodied in materials and manufacturing. It’s a driving problem and we’re not solving it fast enough.”

In order to meet 2050 energy targets, 75 percent of the existing building stock needs to be renovated, which amounts to 54 billion square feet of renovations. Overall, it would require every architect in the U.S. to renovate approximately 18,000 square feet each year for the next 32 years. This is a substantial increase to the low rate of renovation occurring throughout the U.S.

In an effort to combat the lack of uniform public policies, AIA developed the 2030 Commitment. As part of the program, AIA architecture firms and engineers enter predicted energy-use data from all projects in an interface to aggregate design-energy use year to year. Overall the tool allows firms to know how well their projects perform together as a portfolio and whether they are designing energy-efficient buildings.

“By no means is every architect on every project doing what needs to be done,” said Elefante. “In fact, we’re far from achieving those objectives. So while there’s been some progress made over the last 20 years, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

AIA’s panel discussion at the EE Global Forum can be watched on AIA’s Facebook page.

About AIA

Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. 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. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.    

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