The AIA 2030 Commitment: The Year 2 Report

Headline news in the architects’ blogosphere this morning: The ABI (Architecture Billings Index) went down last May to under 50 (meaning net month-to-month billings declined). Yeah, but the Red Sox won again last night so they’re over .500 and out of last place.   

My 401K is up – a little. At this rate I’ll be able to retire when I’m – oh – 110 years old (a wild guess). My BMI is up but my BP is down. Go figure. The data alone tells you nothing. It’s what the data means and what you do with that information that counts.

The NOAA reported last week that the earth’s atmospheric concentration of CO2 has exceeded 400 PPM.  And today in Boston it’s 96 degrees in the shade. Connect THOSE data points and you will share my urgency!

Enough with the preliminaries. Let’s get to the point.

The AIA 2030 Commitment Year 2 Report is out. It’s here. You could just blow down to page 12 for the headline news: Year 2 results show no change in average firm pEUI reduction from 2010 to 2011. But if you only saw that data, you’d miss the important information.

So let’s back up.

The AIA 2030 Commitment was created by the AIA to help architectural firms meet the challenge of becoming a carbon-neutral profession. It helps us bridge the considerable gap between what we do – design buildings and spaces – and the climate-changing greenhouse gasses created by building energy use. The cause-and-effect data is out there, but as hard-working design professionals we are not always clear on what we can do with it. The AIA 2030 Commitment gives us a path: we record the energy use intensity of ALL our projects, and then the AIA aggregates that data and compares it to energy use reduction baselines that become more stringent as we get closer to the year 2030.

Which brings us back to the year 2 results.

What does it mean that the average predicted Energy Use Intensity of all reporting firms’ projects remained statistically unchanged? In 2010, the aggregate average pEUI was 35% better than a nationally-derived standard. In 2011, the aggregate average pEUI it was 34.6% better than the same standard. No improvement?

Consider this: 104 firms submitted reports for 2011, almost double the number that submitted in 2010. This is huge. If this number doubles every year, we’ll get everyone signed on by about 2018 (another wild guess). And the total gross square footage of projects included in this year’s report jumped from 384.9 million GSF on 2010 to 656.2 million GSF in 2011. These are positive trends.

It could also mean that firms reporting in their second year showed improvement in their aggregate PEUI, while firm reporting in year one reported lower scores. That would tend to keep the average pEUI where it was. That‘s yet another wild guess on my part. We should have this data. But in any case, with 86% more firms reporting on 70% more gross building area, we can say with greater certainty that 35% better-than-baseline building energy use is do-able.

Say it aloud. We can do this. A 35% reduction in building energy use is possible.    

I admit it, I’m a cheerleader for the AIA 2030 Commitment. Rah rah. But I’m not blowing smoke here. The AIA 2030 Commitment Year 2 Report tells us that market transformation is in fact gaining momentum. But, yes, more firms need to participate, more energy modeling needs to happen, and best practices need to be mainstreamed. 

So, you may ask, how did my firm do? What was Bergmeyer’s average pEUI reduction for our first year in the Commitment? I’ll save that for the next post . . .

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