Why the Concrete PCRs are So Important

Concrete, particularly due to its cement content, has the largest building product carbon footprint. About 5% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from cement.

“When it comes to building products, reducing the carbon footprint from concrete is one of the most significant actions that the building sector can take.” -Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030

As a widely used building product, concrete offers great structural benefits, has a long service life, and is an important thermal mass material for passive system applications.

As we move to designing more high-performance buildings, concrete will play an important role, and low-carbon concrete will move us that much closer to true, carbon-neutral buildings.

The Concrete Product Category Rules (PCRs) released yesterday by the Carbon Leadership Forum are a critical step in the move towards low-carbon concrete. They set a standard methodology for calculating and disclosing the environmental impacts of concrete, including its carbon footprint.

The PCRs will lead to consistent, comparable data which in turn will drive innovation and low-carbon decisions.

The old adage rings true, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Now that the PCRs have been established, we can move on to the next steps of measuring and reducing the carbon impact of concrete, and meeting the 2030 Challenge for Products. Ton of Concrete

  • See the Concrete PCRs press release.
  • Read BuildingGreen’s article about the PCRs.
  • Attending Greenbuild 2012? Visit these booths to learn about how the Concrete PCRs are already being used: NRMCA: Booth #1032 S, South Hall WEBCOR: Booth #5301 W, West Hall

“New Reality” Grips America


In 2007, Architecture 2030 published a coastal inundation study for over 100 communities in the U.S. Its findings: We are a Nation Under Siege.
See the study and mapping here.

Five of the Top 10 Global Cities Vulnerable to Coastal Flooding are Found in the U.S.

According to an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study published in 2008, five of the top 10 global cities of over one million people with assets and infrastructure exposed to coastal flooding are found in the U.S. – Miami, Greater New York, New Orleans, Tampa-St Petersburg and Virginia Beach – with a current exposure of more than $1 trillion.

Note: Nicholls, R. J. et al. (2008), “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes: Exposure Estimates”, OECD Environment Working Papers, No. 1, OECD Publishing. Exposure is in the form of buildings, transport infrastructure, and other long-lived assets. The unit for monetary amounts is 2001 US dollars (USD).

New York, NY. 3.0-meters Sea Level Rise.

Miami Beach, FL. 1.0-meter Sea Level Rise

New Orleans, LA. 1.0-meter Sea Level Rise

Tampa, FL. 1.5-meters Sea Level Rise

Hampton, VA. 1.0-meter Sea Level Rise

$9.2 Trillion At Risk in the U.S. by 2070

The total value of assets and infrastructure exposed to coastal flooding in 136 global port cities of over one million people is $3 trillion. The total value of exposed assets is expected to increase to $35 trillion by 2070 due to climate change, subsidence and demographic and economic shifts.

The two countries with the most port assets at risk in 2070 are China and the U.S. with $10.8 trillion and $9.2 trillion respectively

NOTE: These estimates do not include the most recent assessments of sea level rise which have increased since Architecture published Nation Under Siege in 2007.

Galveston, TX and Hurricane Ike

Architecture 2030’s work on mapping sea level rise for the Texas Observer for Galveston, Texas was published in Nov. 2007 – That Sinking Feeling depicted 1 meter, 1.5 meters and 2 meters of sea level rise. Ike struck Galveston on Sep 12th 2008, pushing water up against Galveston Island, and raising sea level by over 3 meters.

Sea level rise study, That Sinking Feeling, Galveston, Texas, published, Nov. 2007,
Texas Observer.

Hurricane Ike, September 12, 2008, 3:59pm EDT.

Hurricane Ike, 3-meters (9ft 10in) sea level rise, Galveston Island, September 12, 2008.

Hurricane Sandy: In the News

3-D Maps Pictured Sandy’s Devastation – Five Years Ago

Is the destruction from superstorm Sandy a preview of what’s to come as sea levels continue to rise from climate change?
Jason Plautz, Inside Climate News


Superstorm Sandy Delivers Wake-Up Call for Low-Lying Florida

Dozens of cities in Florida would be flooded with a 3 to 7-foot rise in sea level—substantially lower than Hurricane Sandy’s 9-foot surge in NYC.
Lisa Song, Inside Climate News

Carbon Visuals

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UK based company Carbon Visuals “communicates carbon stories” by producing volumetric representations of greenhouse gases.

This video provides a sense of scale for atmospheric pollution – both in total emissions and the rate of emission – by showing what the 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that New York City added to the atmosphere in 2010 would look like.

According to Carbon Visuals:

  • 75% of these emissions came from buildings with the majority of the rest coming from transportation,
  •  emissions in 2010 were 12% less than 2005 emissions,
  •  the City of New York is on track to reduce emissions by 30% by 2017, an important step towards reaching the 2030 Challenge targets.

LCA/EPD-related Greenbuild Sessions

Life cycle analysis (LCA), Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and general product transparency are at the core of the 2030 Challenge for Products – in order to specify low-carbon products we need product-specific data. If you’ll be in San Francisco next month for Greenbuild 2012, check-out the following sessions that will get you up to speed on all the LCA, EPD, and product transparency issues:


HIGHLIGHT: 2030 Presents

G05: Product Benchmarking: The Next Step to Getting Greener

Wednesday, 3:00pm – 4:00pm

Architecture 2030’s Francesca Desmarais will be presenting with Sally Zahner, Eley Guild Hardy Architects, and Julie Rapoport, CalStar Products, about the the use of product-specific LCAs and EPDs in product benchmarking. Attend this session to examine how these tools can be used by manufacturers and architects to make low-carbon and low-impact decisions. Highly recommended if you want to learn more about the 2030 Challenge for Products!


Other Sessions on Product-Specific LCAs/EPDs

KB07: The Evolving Importance of Life Cycle Assessments

K09: LCA, EPD Alphabet Soup? or View of Product Transparency?


General LCA and Product Transparency Sessions:

B09: Applying LCA to Building Design

D09: Red List to Red Flag: Sharing Materials Research

D11: Using Your Own Power to Transform the Materials Ecosystem

E07: Greener Buildings Through Site-Specific Life Cycle Analysis

J13: BuildingGreen’s Top Ten Green Building Products


LEED v.4 and EPDs

Incentivizing product disclosure

It’s fall, which can mean only one thing: LEED is in the air. With Greenbuild a month away, here’s a look at one of the more exciting LEED v4 credits: MRc2: Building product disclosure and optimization – environmental product declarations. This proposed credit could be a key vehicle towards driving increased building product transparency and disclosure – both essential elements of the 2030 Challenge for Products.

Building products are a critical element of a building’s total carbon footprint, but the significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from manufacturing, transportation, and disposal of products are often overlooked. If we, as an industry, are serious about reducing the Building Sector’s carbon impact, we must also get serious about measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of building products.

EPDs, or Environmental Product Declarations, are currently the gold standard in determining and reporting carbon footprints. EPDs are technically referred to as ‘Type III Ecolabels’ (and follow a robust family of ISO standards), but you can loosely think of them as nutrition labels for building products. Instead of fats and carbohydrates, EPDs list environmental impacts such as the global warming impact (the carbon footprint), impact on ozone depletion, acidification potential, and more.
A handful of manufacturers have already developed EPDs for their products, however, to truly understand and reduce impacts on a larger scale, it is critical that many more jump into the ring. Increasing the volume of EPDs will also encourage economies of scale, reducing the price and time commitment for manufacturers and incentivizing user-friendly communication.

The proposed LEED v4 credit is a step in the right direction. It provides one point for using at least 20% of permanently installed products that achieve one of the following:

  • A public, critically reviewed life-cycle assessment (valued as 1/4 of a product)
  • An industry-wide EPD that contains average impacts for that industry (valued as 1/2 of a product)
  • A product-specific EPD (valued as a whole product)

This credit would incentivize product disclosure while putting a high value on product-specific data.

Read and comment on the proposed LEED v4 MR credits here.
Learn more about EPDs and carbon footprints:
2030 Challenge for Products FAQ
The BuildingGreen 2030 Challenge for Products Information Hub

AIA Portland Presents the 3rd Annual Portland 2030 Challenge Design Awards

First-Place Winner: Russel T. Joy Building, THA Architecture
Runner-Up: Oregon State Hospital Replacement, SRG Partnership, Inc. & Hellmuth, Obata, Kassabaum, Inc.
Honorable Mention: University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility,THA Architecture & Malone, Belton, Abel, P.C.
First-Place Winner: Russel T. Joy Building, THA Architecture
Runner-Up: Oregon State Hospital Replacement, SRG Partnership, Inc. & Hellmuth, Obata, Kassabaum, Inc.
Honorable Mention: University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility,THA Architecture & Malone, Belton, Abel, P.C.
First-Place Winner: Russel T. Joy Building, THA Architecture
Runner-Up: Oregon State Hospital Replacement, SRG Partnership, Inc. & Hellmuth, Obata, Kassabaum, Inc.
Honorable Mention: University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility,THA Architecture & Malone, Belton, Abel, P.C.

Architecture 2030, in collaboration with AIA Portland and their Committee on the Environment (COTE) and the BetterBricks Initiative of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, presented the third annual 2030 Challenge Design Awards in recognition of design excellence towards meeting the 2030 Challenge reduction targets.

This year’s Awards were again presented at the Portland AIA COTE’s annual Green Champion Summit on Thursday, October 18th. Architecture 2030’s Director of Research, Vincent Martinez was in attendance to present the Awards as he has done for the past two years.

“This year’s entries continued to show the high level of design and efficiency in the AIA Portland community. Architecture 2030 is very pleased to see that there are a consistent number of entries that continue to meet the 2030 Challenge 60% reduction target and beyond,” said Architecture 2030’s Director of Research Vincent Martinez. “It’s great to be attending the Summit in Portland and presenting these Awards for the third year in a row.”

Winners were selected from projects submitted for the AIA Portland 2012 Design Awards and, in addition to reduced energy consumption, the hallmark of meeting the 2030 Challenge, submissions were required to include a calculation of operational carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Jurors considered these CO2 calculations along with other design elements.

“AIA Portland continues to show leadership in their third year of requiring all design award applications to include building climate impact calculations, making a statement in both the opportunity and importance presented in every project in reducing energy usage and contributing towards stabilize our climate,” reports Joshua Hatch, Director of Sustainability Analytics at Brightworks and Chair of the Building Climate Impact Committee with AIA Portland COTE.

The following Awards were presented:

First-Place Winner: Russel T. Joy Building, THA Architecture

Runner-Up: Oregon State Hospital Replacement, SRG Partnership, Inc. & HOK, Inc.

Honorable Mention: University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility,THA Architecture & Malone, Belton, Abel, P.C.

AIA Portland’s adoption of the 2030 Challenge design targets and its incorporation of the CO2 emissions calculations into the competition demonstrate a commitment to a low-carbon future and step forward in understanding the full meaning of design excellence. Architecture 2030 welcomes all AIA components to adopt 2030 Challenge targets as part of their competitions. More information about the 2010 and 2011 Winners of the Portland 2030 Challenge Design Awards can be found here and here.

Great American Cities Going 2030

Pittsburgh Joins Cleveland and Seattle, Launches a 2030 District

2030 Districts are forming in great American cities to meet the energy, water and transportation emissions reduction targets called for by Architecture 2030 in the 2030 Challenge for Planning. This week, Pittsburgh joined Cleveland and Seattle by launching a Pittsburgh 2030 District. Pittsburgh, a city transitioning from an industrial past to a lively, low-carbon metropolis, will become part of an emerging 2030 District network.

The announcement of a collaborative effort creating a Pittsburgh 2030 District, containing 61 properties and over 23 million square feet in the downtown area, is the most recent effort in this city’s evolution.

“Launching a 2030 District in Pittsburgh helps to reinforce what this city has been working towards for a long time. Pittsburgh has been building a reputation as a healthy, vibrant city with many sustainability initiatives, and this 2030 District takes things to the next level. The fact that we already have so many businesses committed to this challenge shows that Pittsburghers want to build a better city, and they’re ready to take the next step.” Mike Schiller, CEO Green Building Alliance

Architecture 2030’s Edward Mazria will deliver a lecture titled “The Next Built Environment, Today” on Monday, September 10th at 4:30pm at Carnegie Mellon University. The lecture is part of Pittsburgh 2030 District launch activities hosted by the Green Building Alliance (GBA). The GBA, a community benefit organization founded in 1993 and headquartered in Pittsburgh, is leading the Pittsburgh 2030 District initiative.

Origin of the 2030 Districts

First established in Seattle, 2030 Districts are unique “private/public” partnerships driving a national grassroots movement to create durable coalitions focused on creating and maintaining sustainable and resilient urban growth.

“The 2030 District model is a private sector sustainability initiative for urban development that sets feasible, long-term targets. As municipalities continue to struggle with financial challenges, this is an exciting, robust new model for our time.” Brian Geller, Founder and Executive Director Seattle 2030 District

The 2030 District model brings property owners and managers together with local governments, businesses, architects and planners, and community stakeholders to provide a business model for urban sustainability. Together, this group adopts measurement tools and implements strategies and best practices to meet the 2030 Challenge reduction targets. Leveraged financing, shared financial resources and incentives allow Districts to realize their vibrant urban development and renovation plans without undue delay.

Cleveland Builds Momentum

Cleveland Ranked 14th Best City for Public Transportation. Cleveland RTA Rapid Transit (generally known as The Rapid)

Recently, Edward Mazria and Brian Geller joined 250 community members at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to celebrate the Cleveland 2030 District launch. The Cleveland 2030 District originated in a Sustainable Cleveland 2019 working group, an initiative that engages citizens in designing and developing a thriving self-sustaining greater Cleveland region, leveraging assets to achieve an economic strength, social stability and environmental beauty that will enhance the quality of life for all its residents.

“Since moving to Cleveland five years ago from Cincinnati (Cleveland’s ‘other’ rival city in addition to Pittsburgh), I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by its major cultural institutions, wonderful locally-owned restaurants, diverse population, and most relevant to my career, the implementation of various sustainability initiatives by the City, its residents and businesses throughout the greater Cleveland area. The Cleveland 2030 District’s work can lead to additional benefits including regional economic development, increased investment in the downtown core, and visibility as a national leader in energy-efficient and environmentally responsible building practices.” Kemp Jaycox, Program Manager Cleveland 2030 District

Next steps for the Cleveland 2030 District, established in May 2012, include implementing its strategic plan, hiring full-time staff, engaging new property owners and stakeholders, and creating a database to track and display building and District performance.

U.S. Coal Consumption in Decline

In May 2012, the New York Times reported that “Coal and electric utilities, long allied, are starting to split. More than 100 of the 500 or so U.S. coal-burning power plants are expected to be shut down in the next few years. While coal still provides about a third of the nation’s power, just four years ago it was providing nearly half.” According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) there was a nationwide decrease of 22.8% in net electricity generation from coal between April 2011 and April 2012. The reasons given in the press for the decline of U.S. coal consumption include new pollution rules, fuel switching, and environmental pressure.

The unstated, yet requisite, driver of this trend is the dramatically declining demand for energy in the Building Sector due to slower growth in the U.S. building stock and increases in building energy efficiency.

Just Released: U.S. Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2012

The Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (AEO 2012), prepared by the EIA, presents long-term projections of energy demand based on results from EIA’s National Energy Modeling System. AEO 2012 concludes “The rate of growth in energy use slows over the projection period, reflecting moderate population growth, an extended economic recovery, and increasing energy efficiency in end-use applications.” Visualizing AEO Building Sector data in a graphic format clearly illustrates the key drivers of the recent trend in U.S. energy infrastructure planning.

According to AEO 2012, if the ‘best available demand technologies*’ are incorporated, the projected energy consumption for residential and commercial buildings in 2030 is expected to drop 12% below 2005 levels; CO2 emissions are expected to drop 21.8% below 2005 levels.

AEO projections do not include sustainable planning applications or incorporate passive heating and cooling, natural ventilation, daylighting, or spatial configuration and site design strategies. With the growing number of architects and planners incorporating these strategies to meet the 2030 Challenge targets, actual energy consumption and emissions in the Building Sector will drop substantially lower.

All of this is particularly good news because the alternative of continuing coal use is rather dire. To quote from a previous E-News Bulletin:

“The only practical way to preserve a planet resembling that of the Holocene [i.e. the world as we know it],…is to rapidly phase out coal emissions…”

Note: Seventy-six (76%) percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. is consumed by buildings.

* Best available demand technologies – new equipment purchases are limited to the most efficient versions of technologies available in the residential and commercial buildings sectors.

Access, Info, and Transparency: 2030’s Technology Round-Up

Architecture 2030 is working with industry leaders and online technology innovators to provide extraordinary new resources for meeting the 2030 Challenges.

Green Wizard: Paving the Way to Carbon Neutral

Architecture 2030 has joined forces with the design and construction industry’s go-to-source for sustainable building products to greatly simplify finding and specifying materials that meet the 2030 Challenge for Products.

GreenWizard, a technology leader and market influencer with over $10 billion in project purchasing power, is integrating the Products Challenge into their cloud-based project management platform, making the carbon footprint results of Environmental Product Declarations and Life Cycle Assessments freely searchable and accessible online.

Concrete, which is the leading contributor of greenhouse gases among building products will soon become the first material incorporated into the GreenWizard tool. Expect additional updates as this feature continues to grow.

Lucid: The Future of Tracking Performance Has Arrived

Though an unprecedented voluntary effort to make energy, water, and transportation data for commercial buildings available to the public, the Seattle 2030 District, in partnership with Lucid Design Group, is now openly tracking its progress towards meeting the 2030 Challenge for Planning online.

Lucid is the pioneer of real-time feedback technology for buildings. Their Building Dashboard® platform – touted as “the first social network for buildings” – is used by the world’s leading companies, organizations and institutions to better understand their energy and water use and, through sharing and collaboration (and a little friendly competition), spur creative solutions for curbing consumption.

The Seattle 2030 District Dashboard, monitors the entire Seattle 2030 District as well as individual buildings. The tool is furthered enhanced by VehicleRunner, a transportation footprint solution developed by the Seattle-based software firm, Frontrunner, to gauge vehicle emissions from occupant commuters.

Honest Buildings: Plugging into the Real Estate Mainframe

Comprehensive data for over 1,000 buildings within the Seattle 2030 District, including 83 member properties, representing 20 million square feet of commercial space, are now featured on the rapidly growing real estate network, Honest Buildings.

This comes as Honest Buildings announced that it was releasing detailed profiles on 32,000 commercial and mixed-use buildings in the Emerald City. Since launching just three months ago, the startup sensation has amassed and released information on 450,000 U.S. properties, including images, typology, ownership, management, square footage, LEED certifications, ENERGYSTAR ratings, and more.

“This partnership provides a powerful catalyst towards our efforts,” said Brian Geller, Executive Director of the Seattle 2030 District. “Honest Buildings is an ideal platform for our professional stakeholders to showcase their work and illustrate how they are helping District members to meet our ambitious energy, water, and transportation emissions reduction goals.

Explore the Seattle 2030 District at honestbuildings.com.

AIA+2030: Connecting With the Nation’s Zero-Carbon Experts

In just a few years, the AIA+2030 Professional Education Series has reached over 1,000 architects and engineers in 22 cities across the U.S. – providing real-world training and expertise on meeting the 2030 Challenge. This is just the beginning; AIA+2030 is in high demand.

Now, Architecture 2030 has embarked on a campaign with the Society of Building Science Educators (SBSE) to expand the Series directory of preeminent experts in carbon-neutral and zero-net-energy design.

To add your name to the list of potential AIA+2030 educators, click here.

Fossil Fuel Fairy Tale

“The Better to See You With, My Dear”
and other fairy tales from the American Gas Association

Everyone has heard the classic fairy tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” and the deceitful, greedy Old Wolf who has eaten the grandmother and now has his eyes on Little Red. It has been told to generations of school children.

To us, the story is simple: beware of those who will tell you anything to further their own interests.

In the most recent rendition of this fable, the American Gas Association (AGA) and Federal Performance Contracting Coalition (FPCC) seem to have swallowed up a Congressional Committee and now have their eyes on both Federal agencies and the U.S. taxpayer.

Under attack is Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed by President Bush in 2007 to require that all new Federal buildings, and major renovations of Federal buildings of at least $2.5 million, meet a fossil fuel-generated energy consumption reduction of 55% in 2010, 65% in 2015, 80% in 2020, 90% in 2025, and 100% in 2030.

The fairy tale is an Issue Brief titled “Fossil Fuel Elimination Rule”, which was prepared and distributed at a White House meeting by the AGA and FPCC.

The brief, which asks Congress to “substantially modify or eliminate” Section 433, is intentionally misleading.

The AGA and FPCC want us to believe that there is no “long term path to compliance” to phase out the use of fossil fuels in new Federal buildings and major renovations by 2030. They argue that many Federal agencies “do not have the ability to comply with the fossil fuel generated energy reduction mandate and therefore will not renovate,” resulting in higher energy bills for the Federal government and the American taxpayer.

These spurious claims prey on the recessionary fears of the American public. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 76% of the 51,000 non-residential Federal buildings are one-story; 95.7% are three stories and under. The Federal government also owns over 400,000 one and two-story housing structures. These building types are easily renovated to meet the reduction targets set in Sec. 433.

In fact, there are numerous low-cost solutions for dramatically reducing energy consumption in single story and low-rise buildings: daylighting and ventilation strategies, natural heating and cooling systems, and high-performance products, fixtures, and equipment, to name just a few.

These buildings also have large roof areas capable of accommodating cost-effective, off-the-shelf renewable energy and electric generation technologies and systems. More advanced on-site energy production and storage technologies developed over the next 18 years can be accommodated as well. Section 433 insures that Federal buildings will continually improve in efficiency – saving both the Federal government and American taxpayer precious dollars over the 60-year average lifetime of a building.

Of course, the Federal government can also purchase renewable energy to meet part of its mandated fossil fuel reduction target directly from electricity suppliers (DOE final rule will likely include Power Purchase Agreements). Today, over 50% of electricity consumers in the United States have the option of purchasing renewable energy generated electricity. Over the next 18 years, advancements in the grid and renewable energy technology will likely make this option even more widely available and cost-effective.

The brief also states that Section 433 “would halt the pursuit of increased use of natural gas.”

Federal government buildings comprise less that 1% of total U.S. building stock, of which only a small portion is renovated each year. To suggest that this would affect the use of natural gas in the U.S., staggers the imagination.

And finally, the brief gives five “examples of projects that would be hindered by the rule” – four very large power plant projects and one 355,000 square foot, eleven story building – implying that many or most renovation projects would not be possible, or go forward, under Sec. 433.

The point is moot. Sec. 433 contains a provision for obtaining a waiver if the “requirement would be technically impracticable,” i.e. impossible to carry out.

Even so, the only building example cited in the brief is not a typical government building project or renovation. Less than 1% of Federal commercial buildings are 10 stories or more, most are only one story. Also, the assumption made that, in the next 13 to 18 years, only a maximum 30% electricity consumption reduction will be possible is unsound; especially with ongoing advancements in LED lighting, high-tech and energy generating window coatings, high performance equipment and electronics, nanotechnology, and site renewable energy generation and storage.

It is indeed unfortunate that the American Gas Association and the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition are putting their own interests before that of our country, especially during these tough economic times.

In our favorite ending to the classic tale of Little Red, the kind woodcutter rushes to her rescue just before she ends up in the belly of the Old Wolf, tricked by his lies.

This is exactly how we want this fairy tale to end.