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The Building Sector Must Lead

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Effectively addressing the U.S. and world’s energy needs in the near and long-term has important design implications for the Building Sector [1]. By meeting the energy reduction targets of the 2030 Challenge, an incremental set of targets, building sector professionals can dramatically reduce U.S. and global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) over the next twenty years and beyond.

Meeting the Challenge

The architecture, engineering, and design communities have the tools necessary to immediately begin meeting the 2030 Challenge.

As of July 2012, 70% of the 30 largest U.S. Architecture / Engineering firms, responsible for over $100 billion in construction annually, have adopted and are implementing the 2030 Challenge. In total, approximately 52% of all U.S. architecture firms have adopted the Challenge. This indicates that a dramatic transformation of the Building Sector is underway in the U.S. Since many of our top A/E firms practice and have offices all over the world, this is a dramatic transformation with global implications [2]

Meeting the 2030 Challenge energy reduction targets is achieved first by 1) appropriate planning and passive design strategies, then 2) improved material selection, building envelope design, more efficient lighting, equipment, and appliances, and finally by 3) on-site and community-scale renewable energy technologies [3].

With regard to building materials manufacturing and building construction, currently available CO2 reduction measures include low carbon footprint materials, more efficient end-use electrical equipment and lighting, heat/power recovery, renewable energy supply systems and manufacturing plant location.

Building Energy Codes and the 2030 Challenge

In August 2006, the U.S. EPA Target Finder incorporated the 2030 Challenge targets for energy reductions by building type, into their web-based calculator. In December 2007, after being passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Energy Independence and Security Act became law with the President's signature. Section 433 of this bill requires that all new federal buildings and major renovations meet the energy performance standards of the 2030 Challenge beginning in 2010.

Updating the National Model Building Energy Code Standards to meet the 2030 Challenge targets is currently in pending congressional legislation. This includes Section 201 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and similar provisions in the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (S. 1462) and the Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act of 2010 (S. 3464), in the U.S. Senate.

For Architecture 2030's analysis of Section 201 of H.R. 2454, click here (.pdf).

For a list of Local, State, and Federal adopters of the 2030 Challenge, click here.

Complete information on the 2030 Challenge, including available strategies, material, equipment, and technologies is available here.




Today, the Building Sector consumes about half of the energy produced in the U.S. each year, 68% of which is consumed in the form of electricity. About 48.5% of this electricity is produced by conventional coal-fired power plants. However, 81% of CO2 emissions from electricity generation come from coal-fired power plants. The global climate problem becomes tractable only if CO2 emissions from conventional coal use are phased out by the year 2030, and emissions from unconventional fossil fuels (e.g., oil shale and tar sands) are prohibited (see report here).

Since most of these firms are multinational, the shift towards building to the 2030 Challenge carries important economic weight, representing a significant, stable global market for high-performance building materials, products, and on-site renewable energy systems.

How to Meet the 2030 Challenge

  1. Design Strategies (The largest energy reductions can be achieved through design.
  2. Technologies and Systems (Including on-site renewable energy systems).
  3. Off-Site Renewable Energy (20% maximum).
The 2030 Challenge allows for 20% of the required reduction to come from purchasing renewable energy and/or certified renewable energy credits. However, Architecture 2030 encourages utility renewable energy and/or renewable energy credits for the remainder of a project’s power needs.

The 2030 Challenge advocates for “carbon-neutral” buildings by 2030, which is not to be confused with “net zero energy” buildings.

The 2030 Challenge targets are for the year of a project’s completion, not the year that the project begins initial design.