Key Takeaways

  • 20,652 projects were submitted in the 2021 reporting period by 417 firms, an increase of 10% in firms reporting from the 2020 reporting period.
  • 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 661 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.
  • 7,867 interior only projects reported in 2021 totaled 456,361,032 gross square feet, an increase of 24% reported from 2020.  
  • Interior only projects achieved an average 32.5% pLPD reduction, with a majority of interior only projects achieving the 25% pLPD target.

2021: the slog

In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to cast its pall over our day-to-day lives and the global economy.

Despite obstacles, architects pushed forward with their clients, continuing to achieve higher-performing and lower-carbon designs. In 2021, the 20,652 projects reported achieved an overall 50.3% reduction in predicted energy use intensity (pEUI). 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.

Supply-chain disruptions

The global supply chain has become unpredictable, and prices are volatile. Acquiring materials at the right time and the right price is vital to building industry success, and firms are finding this harder and harder to do.

Inflation, a worldwide phenomenon facing the industry, has complex causes that include but aren't limited to the pandemic. Amid soaring costs, architects are learning to work within even tighter budgets, which can make certain sustainable design features, like photovoltaics, more challenging to use. Despite this, 6.8% of projects that 2030 Commitment signatories reported in 2021 including renewable energy, the majority generating energy through on-site solar photovoltaics.

Some sustainable design features, like robust envelopes that reduce peak loads and thus the size of the mechanical system, can ease first costs.

The political landscape  

Although there were political setbacks in 2021, the Biden-Harris administration took strides to reduce building emissions and create more sustainable and resilient federal infrastructure.

Last year, a new 2021 rule required phaseout of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are highly potent greenhouse gases used as blowing agents for foam insulation and as refrigerants in mechanical systems. Additionally, President Biden signed an executive order requiring a carbon-neutral federal government by 2050. The order includes carbon-free electricity purchases by 2030, net zero carbon operations of buildings by 2045, and procurement of net zero carbon building materials by 2050. The administration has also launched the National Building Performance Standards Coalition, drawing upon the momentum of local and state governments to use design and building performance to address climate change.

Most notably has been the recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the largest governmental climate investment. This includes incentives for clean energy, electric vehicle tax breaks, and pollution reduction measures. Altogether, the political landscape has continued to move forward with the pressing need for climate action, bringing forth the role of the built environment to reduce emissions and impact critical change.

A call to action  

In 2021 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the "code red" report.

"The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable, " wrote UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

Climate change is already devastating humanity with impacts that include more frequent and more extreme heat waves, flooding, droughts, and wildfires, according to a second IPCC report assessing global warming impacts and vulnerabilities.

But in a third report, the IPCC gave us hope, encouraging "concrete actions aligning sustainable development and climate mitigation" - something all architects can be a part of, including the more than 56,000 professionals employed at over 1,100 2030 Commitment signatory firms.

Image credits

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In reporting year 2021, whole-building GSF & pEUI% reduction dropped slightly from 51% to 50%.

AIA

Interior-only GSF & pLPD% reduction increased from 30% in 2020 to 33% in 2021.

AIA