The AIA 2030 Commitment: Change is Gonna Come

“Nothing is permanent except change.”

This phrase goes back to Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of the late 6th century BCE, who was working on the foundations of “Western” thought way before Sam Cooke wrote that sweet tune about change in 1964. But man, did he nail it. Talk about prescient.

As inevitable as it may be, we still make a fuss when the ground rules change. That new operating system is sure to screw with your internet favorites and saved passwords. The USGBC announced revisions to the LEED Rating System and you’d think the Constitution had been repealed. And now we have to earn continuing education units for our LEED Accreditation? On top of my AIA CEU’s? Are you kidding me?

But some change could do you good.

For example, take building codes. Please. But seriously, we’re all trying to design higher-performing buildings that use less energy and help us meet the AIA 2030 Commitment goals of zero carbon emission architecture, right? Here in Massachusetts, before 2009 architects and building inspectors worked with home-grown versions of a building code that was copied by hand onto parchment rolls and delivered via pony express. OK, that’s not entirely true, but before the Commonwealth drafted its own code in 1974, each municipality had unique building codes – or they just adopted Boston’s building code that dated back to 1873. No lie. Energy modeling and “performance compliance option” couldn’t even have been imagined.  

Now, thanks to the passage of the Green Communities Act in 2008, we have the International Building Code and the International Energy Conservation Code: modern, internationally-recognized standards with regularly updated and increasingly stringent design energy use regulations. On top of that, Massachusetts adopted a “Stretch” Energy Code in 2009 and – with the City of Boston’s Green Building Zoning Ordinance (article 37) in 2007 – all of our state’s new buildings are designed to be greener by law.

This is good change. But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Coming up next: Building energy use reporting and disclosure.

The New York City Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability recently released its first annual report on building energy use called the “New York City Local Law 84 Benchmarking Report”. Local Law 84 is a new ordinance in NYC that requires owners of all commercial and multi-family residential buildings over 50,000 GSF to report actual building energy use intensity (EUI), carbon emissions, and Energy Star scores to the City. And in the fall of 2012, all energy use reporting will become public information. I posted a guest-blog about this game-changing new law on the Institute for Market Transformation web site.    

The City of Boston is considering adopting an ordinance like this. Can you imagine? All the buildings in our fair city being required to report on their actual building energy use and disclose this as public information? Greener buildings would have a clear market advantage. Municipal policy could target the real energy hogs and set energy use ceilings. City-wide carbon emissions from buildings could be effectively and measurably reduced. And – whoa – the deep-energy retrofit business would go through the (green) roof.

Psyched? You should be. Want to hear more about what the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has planned for sustainable design policy and regulation?  Come to the BSA Space on September 24 at 6:00 PM for a panel presentation called “Be The Change: Raising the Bar on Sustainability”. We’ll have enlightening and informative speakers from State and City government along with the Conservation Law Foundation and the Institute for Market Transformation.  It’ll be transformative.

To paraphrase a very famous man, this is change we can believe in.


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