Architecture firms participating in the American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Commitment continue to come up short of their benchmark goals, according to the AIA’s 2016 progress report.
Projects had an average predicted energy use intensity (pEUI) savings of 42% last year, compared to 38% in 2015 but well short of the 70% benchmark. Just six firms achieved the 70% target across their project portfolios. The count of participating firms in 2016 was 175, up 15% from 2015.
Modeled projects showed pEUI savings of around 50% compared to 35% for non-modeled projects. However, modeled projects accounted for a smaller share of overall projects in 2016 (32%) than in 2015 (52%).
The building industry has set ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions across the supply chain — objectives that are proving challenging to meet.
Those efforts were further weakened earlier this year when President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The agreement, signed by 195 countries in late 2015, would have cut U.S. carbon emissions by up to 28% by 2025 and 80% by 2050 from 2005 levels. It will take until late 2020 for the U.S. to pull out entirely, according to Utility Dive.
U.S. cities, states and businesses are pushing back on Trump’s move, taking up the mantle of carbon emissions reduction themselves. Earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced America’s Pledge, a new carbon-cutting initiative. The program implements independent measuring of emissions to comply with the reductions set in the Paris accord.
One way the AEC industry can improve building performance, contributing to carbon-reduction goals, is through energy modeling. The process has helped projects, including the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA, achieve net-zero energy, according to Architect magazine. Modeling allow teams to optimize design early on, adjusting building orientation, envelope composition, material selection and even internal layouts to help the building perform efficiently.
However, just 13% of architecture firms used energy modeling for billable work in 2015, according to an AIA survey, reflecting the limited uptake among 2030 Commitment members. The rate was much higher — 59% — among large firms, indicating cost barriers as well as the project size requirements key to justifying return on investment in modeling.