2030 CHALLENGE: Raising the bar for the building industry

Professionals talking in lobby of U.S. Green Building Council headquarters - 2030 Challenge

Globally, about one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are building related. And that figure is even higher in developed nations. With this massive opportunity to cut GHGs, the non-profit Architecture 2030 has created the 2030 Challenge, an initiative that asks the global architecture and building communities to go carbon neutral by 2030.

The Challenge specifically targets new buildings, developments and major renovations, asking them to reduce energy consumption and fossil fuel/GHG emissions to 60 per cent below the regional or country standard for that specific type of building. That figure increases to 70 per cent in 2015, 80 per cent in 2020, 90 per cent in 2025, ending at carbon neutral in 2030.

Architecture 2030 suggests these reductions come from sustainable building and design practices as well as generating renewable power on-site. Purchasing renewable energy is also an option, but one that’s seen as a last resort with a 20 per cent cap being placed on it.

Existing developments are challenged to reduce their GHG emissions as well. Under this plan they would be expected to reduce fossil-fuel use for buildings, CO2 from transportation and water production by 10 per cent, gradually increasing to 50 per cent in 2030.

The Challenge has gained some serious backers in the few years since its inception. The American Institute of Architects, with its 80,000 members, have accepted the Challenge. As have the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the U.S. Green Building Council and a number of other architecture, building and environmental groups as well as many businesses and universities.

In practice, government has given the Challenge quite a boost. The EPA now uses the 2030 Challenge’s targets in their web-based calculator. As of December 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act made it mandatory for all new construction and major renovation of federal buildings to adhere to the standards of the 2030 Challenge. State, city and county governments have also issued their own initiatives in line with the Challenge.

A Design Futures Council poll found that in the U.S. approximately 40 per cent of all architecture firms have adopted the Challenge. And 73 per cent of the 30 largest architecture and engineering firms in the country have also agreed to this initiative. These large firms operate multinationally and the hope is that they will spread the ideals of the 2030 Challenge to the projects they work on.

As the adoption and implementation rate of the 2030 Challenge picks up, the market for green building and related materials and renewable energy systems expands. In this way the building industry is building a way out of greenhouse gas emissions and creating a more sustainable built environment. A much needed change for a highly consumptive industry.

For more information visit Architecture 2030.

image: Ted Eytan (Creative Commons BY-SA)

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