The world is in climate crisis. Of the the global greenhouse gas emissions that primarily contribute to climate change, the built environment accounts for roughly 40%. As designers, we have an incredible opportunity to impact our planet — and a responsibility to be good stewards. Since 2010, the AIA 2030 Commitment has served as an industry-wide gauge on sustainable design, measuring progress in addressing the climate crisis and architecture’s contribution to it.
AIA 2030 Commitment Targets
AIA’s 2030 Commitment calls for all buildings be operationally carbon neutral by 2030. The path to this goal is outlined through steady decreases in building carbon footprint every five years. Currently, the goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% from a 2003 baseline; a 90% reduction goal starts in 2025. We measure this by predicted energy use intensity, or pEUI, compared to code. Because we can’t improve what we don’t track, 2030 Commitment signatories are asked to annually report their portfolio data to the AIA DDx (design data exchange) as a collective measurement tool.
Hennebery Eddy signed the commitment in 2014 and each spring submits our portfolio data with information such as pEUI, embodied carbon, and lighting power density for all eligible projects. Yearly tracking allows us to analyze performance and check progress against ourselves and our peers. In the fall, AIA releases an industry-wide progress report highlighting key trends and insights from the prior year. The national report for 2022 is a mixed bag.
Industry Progress & Challenges
As of October, more than 1,300 firms have signed onto the commitment, but only about one-third of those firms (428) submitted a portfolio with data in 2022. Developing a system for submitting a portfolio has helped Hennebery Eddy not only consistently submit data but also consistently improve project performance, raising our “score” every year.
Of the 428 submitting firms, only 19 met the 80% reduction target (a small increase from 15 in 2020). Unfortunately, the national reduction number fell for the second year in a row, from 50% in 2021 to 48% in 2022. Although this is a concerning national trend, Hennebery Eddy is proud to further our own progress, reaching a 65% reduction in our 2022 portfolio. This number is well above our home state averages in Oregon and Montana, which are 45% and 54% respectively. About 16% of our portfolio (as gross square footage) meets the 80% target — including projects like the Multnomah County Library Operations Center and City of Bend Public Works Campus, both targeting LEED Gold certification.
Importance of Energy Modeling
The national report highlights another unfortunate downward trend: the percentage of projects that performed energy modeling decreased, from 77% in 2020 to 62% in 2022. There is a strong correlation between projects that are energy modeled and their carbon footprint reductions. Our increased year-over-year performance is partially due to this correlation. Through proactive in-house energy modeling, our project teams gain valuable information that informs early design decisions (not just documentation).
Nationally, most projects that are energy modeled are analyzed in the schematic design phase. At Hennebery Eddy, our default is to model projects early in the concept phase. These early conversations help ensure project teams understand energy-related trade-offs as early as possible in the design process. In 2022, Hennebery Eddy was one of just 53 firms nationwide to have energy models for 100% of our portfolio.
There were plenty of positive national trends as well.
- The number of projects that are 75% electric has increased more than 200% since 2020. This is critical as the nation continues to decarbonize the electric grid.
- The number of net-zero energy projects is also on the rise, from 131 in 2018 to 346 in 2022. Hennebery Eddy was responsible for four of those projects.
- The number of projects with renewable energy sources more than doubled, from 775 in 2020 to 1,718 in 2022. Thanks to programs like Energy Trust of Oregon’s Path to Net Zero and Oregon’s 1.5% for renewable energy requirement on public projects, solar panels are becoming the norm in our portfolio.
Hennebery Eddy Goals
Looking ahead, Hennebery Eddy is focused on meeting the 80% reduction target with our 2023 portfolio report. We are also working to report the embodied carbon of our projects. The 2030 Commitment has primarily emphasized operational carbon emissions, thus far, but tracking embodied carbon emissions helps tell a building’s whole sustainability story. And when we consider the holistic climate impacts of our projects, we can design better spaces for net-positive outcomes.