Sustainable By Design: Setting A Timetable: The 2030 Challenge

By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the July 2006 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The calls to move away from fossil fuel energy sources in favor of renewable energy sources are all around. Increasingly, regional alliances, state and city governments, and industry organizations are discussing how to ramp up the use of renewable energy sources—among them solar, wind, and biomass—to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted into the earth’s atmosphere.

Founded in 2005, Architecture 2030, a group headed up by New Mexico architect Edward Mazria, AIA, has been receiving increased attention from state and municipal governments. Aimed at slowing the growth rate of GHG emissions and then reversing it over the next 10 years, Mazria’s organization issued the “2030 Challenge” to the building community. The three main targets of the challenge are:

  • That all new buildings and developments be designed to use 50% of the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume—half the national average for that building type as benchmarked by the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • That, at a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area be renovated annually to use 50% of the amount of fossil fuel energy it is currently consuming.
  • That the fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings be increased to 60% in 2010, to 70% in 2015, to 80% in 2020, to 90% in 2025, and, finally, to 100% in 2030.

The aim is certainly ambitious, but Architecture 2030 points out that effective design strategies can reduce fossil fuel operating energy consumption by as much as 30% to 80%. Design strategies, which the group notes will vary according to region and local climatic conditions, include building shape and orientation, roof color and solar reflectance, glazing location and glass properties, sun shading, insulation values, specification of efficient equipment, and application of daylighting, passive heating, cooling, and natural ventilation systems.

The Mt. Airy Public Library in Mt. Airy, NC.

If, after implementing the desired design strategies, the team wants to reduce fossil fuel energy use further, the use of technologies such as solar water heating and photovoltaics are viable considerations. Thirdly, Architecture 2030 suggests that if the project does not meet the challenge at that point, the team can make up the difference by purchasing renewable energy from a central power source.

Many of these strategies are not new. In the early 1980s, Mazria’s architectural firm designed the Mt. Airy Public Library in Mt. Airy, NC, which was found to consume about one-sixth as much energy per square foot as a municipal building in the town. Design strategies included natural lighting, a light colored roof, strategically placed shade trees, and operable windows.

The 2030 Challenge gained momentum in the public sector last month when the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) unanimously adopted it, resolving to encourage members to aim for aggressive reductions in fossil fuel energy use in city owned buildings. Presented as Resolution No. 50, the call for action was submitted by Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Miami Mayor Manuel A. Diaz.

Since then, several cities have made moves toward the goal. Mayor Chavez recently issued an executive order mandating all new public buildings in Albuquerque be compliant with the 2030 Challenge. City staff members are also working on providing the mayor with feedback on retrofitting existing buildings to reduce the use of fossil fuel energy.

The city also plans to draw on the expertise of regional organizations. “I don’t think anyone has the ultimate answers, but [nearby] Sandia National Laboratories has done a very good job of taking technologies that have been developed in the national energy scene and finding commercial applications for them,” says Mayor Chavez.

Elsewhere in New Mexico, the city council in Santa Fe passed a resolution backing the 2030 Challenge for its city buildings prior to the USCM vote. And earlier this year, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson issued an executive order requiring that all new state buildings and major renovations meet the 2030 Challenge parameters.

With public entities gearing up to rise to the challenge, encouraging the private sector to get on board is bound to follow. As part of this strategy, Governor Richardson created a climate change advisory group, which discusses how to reduce GHG emissions and has proposed possible incentives to make it work. Among these are tax breaks for businesses that adopt clean energy policies.

Mayor Chavez has his planning committee working on initiatives to foster participation as well. “We are developing an overall strategy for implementation in the private sector,” he says. “We’re looking at waiving or reducing impact fees, utilities costs, and things of that nature as incentives. This, in conjunction with reformation of our building codes, is seen as a principal vehicle for getting businesses on board.”

Reducing GHG emissions is not a new concept. But, now, with the challenge posed by Architecture 2030, facility managers can have a new target in mind.

Information for this article was provided through interviews with Chavez and Architecture 2030 staff members. For more on the 2030 Challenge, visit Facility managers can see how their buildings rate according to the U.S. DOE benchmarks with the Energy Star Portfolio Manager (