The AIA 2030 Commitment: It’s a Big Tent

If you have already persuaded your clients to always build high-performing, sustainably-designed buildings: congratulations. We haven’t. We have hold-outs. It’s not that they don’t understand the relationship between building energy use and climate change, the matter just hasn’t been framed for them yet. So here’s another benefit of signing the AIA 2030 Commitment: it creates an opportunity for you to convert the unconverted . . . to bring ALL your clients in under the big AIA 2030 tent.

Our architectural firm, Bergmeyer, signed the AIA 2030 Commitment months ago. We had a leadership team in place. We had several initiatives underway for our Firm Operational Data report. We had a good handle on Energy Use Intensity. Spreadsheets were being prepared. It was beginning to feel like progress.

But we knew this was only half the battle. It was time to hit the road for uncharted territory. It was time to go to . . .Kansas.

Some of our firm’s work is for big-box retailers. We design a spiffy new prototype and adapt it to multiple locations. This has us doing projects all over the country. Bad for our collective vehicle-miles-travelled, but it’s good to meet people who don’t think the same way you do.  So armed with the best intentions, we decided to road-test PEUI. Like early explorers looking for the Northwest Passage, we contacted a very capable and dependable MEP firm in the mid-west with whom we were doing one of these multi-location projects and asked: can you please tell us the Energy Use Intensity in kBtu/sf/yr for these buildings?

Stunned silence.

Day or so later, this reply: We are not familiar with this criterion. It is not part of our design calculations. What program do we need to answer this question? And once we know this, we will (of course) be happy to prepare an additional services request. And (parenthetically) why is this even necessary? The buildings have already been permitted.

Collective sigh. Time to make that tent a little bigger . . .

The fact is, the AIA has bent over backwards to make the AIA 2030 Commitment user-friendly. We all know that not all projects are energy-modeled. That’s not a good thing, but in order for us to get our arms around ALL our projects’ energy use, the Big Tent must be the working metaphor. Our engineers in Kansas only needed to tell us what building code they used. We plug in the code and a drop-down menu on the AIA 2030 Reporting Form automatically produces a “PEUI Reduction from Average” calculation. The stores in question were designed to meet IECC 2003, which translated into their being 10% better than AIA 2030 baseline. Pretty easy, folks. 

But was it good news? No. Evidence of a rigorously integrated design process? Not. Is this the way we should be working in order to reduce carbon emissions from building energy use? Not even close. But as raw data, this information was immensely valuable. Why? Because now we can see the magnitude of the challenge before us. Ten percent better than average would obviously not cut it. But once this kind of reporting was in hand, the transformation could begin . . .

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