The AIA 2030 Commitment: What Are You Waiting For?

‘Tis the season. Time to take stock and reflect. How have we made the world a better place in 2011? How has the long-term value of our talents and efforts been maximized?

I am happy to say I was part of the leadership team that convinced my Boston architectural firm, Bergmeyer, to sign the AIA 2030 Commitment in 2011. And since June I have been blogging about our adventures in compliance reporting in hopes that more AIA and BSA (Boston Society of Architects) member firms will be convinced to join us.

So where are we? What has worked and what has flopped?

Bergmeyer’s leadership team clicked into place pretty easily. It helped that several of the leadership team are Principals. We run the 2030 Commitment like a project with monthly meetings and notes. Our six-month report on operational initiatives has been completed. We did great on “Office Energy Use” and “Waste Reduction” gathering good data and setting measurable baselines. Firm-wide goals for “Travel” and “Meeting Procedures” were a little harder to quantify.  

We have begun to take inventory of our projects’ PEUI (Predicted Energy Use Intensity) and roll the energy use convention (Kbtu/SF/yr) out to our project teams and consultants. It took a little work to get our arms around this metric, especially since a lot of our projects aren’t energy-modeled. But the AIA 2030 Commitment reporting tool and its handy pull-down menus proved to be very helpful in establishing energy use targets.  

The next big steps – creating a sustainability action plan and recording the PEUI for all our projects – are on the screen for early 2012. In June 2012 we will take stock of our successes and shortcomings and apply what we have learned to compliance Year 2. And you’ll be able to read all about it right here.

Have the corporate wheels fallen off? No. Have we been consumed by calculations and paperwork? No. Yes, the Commitment has become part of a couple peoples’ job descriptions. Yes, the whole firm has become involved. Yes, it does take work, and much of the work isn’t billable.

But we are now thinking differently about sustainable design. We have a deeper understanding of the concept and its place in our practice. We no longer have “green building” specialists or consider it an additional service. We know now that we can’t meet radical building energy use reduction targets one project at a time. We understand the necessity to improve our entire firm’s capacity to think sustainably. It’s now an integral part of our strategic plan.

The AIA 2030 Commitment can help your firm do this, too. But only if you sign up. So what are you waiting for?

I’ve heard the arguments. “It’s too paperwork-intensive”. Not true. All the reporting is done online. In fact, we’re becoming less paper-oriented and more streamlined as a result of joining. For LEED Registered projects, the reporting is effortless. “It will take too much non-billable time”. Depends on what you mean by “too much”. If you think of the incremental work needed to do this stuff as an investment in your firm’s capabilities, the payoff is profound. “It’s not really part of our business plan”. Is survival part of your business plan? Should be.

And here’s my favorite reason: “Our firm’s Principals don’t really support it”. Send me an e-mail. We have ways of being persuasive.

So here we are. 2012 is upon us. We have 18 years to go. About 20 BSA Member firms have signed up and are working to reduce the collective environmental impact of their projects. Your firm could sign the AIA 2030 Commitment this year. Come on, join us.

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2 Comments on “The AIA 2030 Commitment: What Are You Waiting For?”

  1. Peter Papesch, AIA, chair, BSA Sustainability Education says:

    Hi, Mike:

    Excellent blog post.

    Re: “It took a little work to get our arms around this metric (Kbtu/SF/yr), especially since a lot of our projects aren’t energy-modeled.” I hope any of the educators – and especially studio instructors – who read this will start thinking how to train future architects to become as proficient in energy modeling as they are supposed to be in “pure design”. In other words, climate change is upon us, and unless energy modeling has become second nature as both a tool and a skill, our profession will not be able to adequately scrape away at our current profligate waste of energy (embodied as well as operational) in the building sector of the economy.

    Happy New Year, and more power to you for helping us not be afraid of the changes that the 2030 Commitment invites us to make.


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