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Can We Meet AIA 2030 Goals?

AIA 2030 Commitment

Posted by D/P/S Team Green

One year ago Dekker/Perich/Sabatini officially signed onto the AIA 2030 Commitment. The national initiative provides a framework for architecture firms to evaluate how design can enhance a building's energy performance, with the ultimate goal of making carbon neutral buildings the standard by the year 2030.

Because the built environment consumes a significant amount of energy, net zero buildings will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate and energy solutions.

So how are we doing twelve months into our AIA 2030 pledge?

AIA 2030 energy reduction

Shoebox Modeling (not that kind of shoebox). Since signing onto AIA 2030 we have incorporated shoebox modeling into our design process for all new buildings and significant renovations. These quick energy models are created early in the design process and are based on information like square footage, location, building orientation, and glazing area.

The resulting data is used to inform building design and orientation. These early simulations can result in energy savings of 30% or more throughout the life of a building, which translates into reduced emissions and lower energy bills for owners.

Renewable Energy. While several design strategies can reduce a building's energy consumption, there's only one way to truly achieve carbon neutrality, and that's through the use of renewables. Solar power is one of the most reliable and clean sources of renewable energy, so photovoltaic (PV) systems are often incorporated as an appropriate solution.

Solar Insolation Analysis
Example of Solar Insolation Analysis, which shows effectiveness of shading design and areas of high solar heat gain.

Dedicated Energy Specialists... we call them BPATs! Short for Building Performance Analysis Team, this group is much cooler than their name. Comprised of BIM experts and energy specialists, BPAT creates energy models for all new construction projects to pinpoint how to improve building performance.

"We're using analysis in an iterative design process," said Brandon Garrett, Associate / Architect and Design Technology Leader. "It allows us to evaluate several options at once and use performance information to make decisions as we move forward throughout design."

BPAT can currently run seven separate analyses depending on project needs:

  • Benchmarking - Energy Use Intensity
  • Solar Insolation
  • Illuminance
  • Solar PV Energy
  • Interior Lighting
  • Building Envelope Heat Transfer
  • Flow Design


BPAT Analysis


Better Data. AIA 2030 reporting firms post the results of their energy evaluations to the Design Data Exchange (2030 DDx). The national database is confidential and anonymously compares project performance to help design firms understand best practices and make progress on carbon neutrality.

"Without AIA 2030 to measure and track the impact of our work, the challenge of integrating energy analysis and other metrics into practice would be even greater," said Aaron Ketner, D/P/S Energy Specialist. "AIA 2030 acts as the perfect framework to inform more sustainable design."

In 2016, our first reporting year, we anonymously reported data from 14 projects to the 2030 DDx. Now halfway through 2017, we're on track to report another 30 projects and anticipate that number to grow. These reports, combined with data from thousands of other buildings all over the world, will contribute to industry knowledge on how best to implement modeling tools and reduce use of non-renewable energy.

Gaining Momentum. In addition to our shoebox modeling efforts, our clients are also pushing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adopting additional sustainable design strategies.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), for example, wanted to incorporate both natural resource stewardship and environmental education in the renovation of their Albuquerque office through the use of solar energy systems, rainwater catchment, and highly efficient LED lighting. Our energy analysis of their building led to a revised energy model that showed they were actually in a lower utility rate class than initially thought. This made it financially feasible to increase the size of their Solar PV system.

Solar PV Energy Analysis
NMDGF Solar Building Performance model. Anaylsis provides energy saving calculations based on PV Area, represented in yellow, among other factors. Areas outlined in red indicate 90% efficiency for optimal PV placement.

We've also been working with multifamily housing developers to develop data-driven design solutions. With an emphasis on providing energy-efficient homes that support a healthy living environment and promote well-being, The Housing Trust of Santa Fe was eager to look at sustainable design options for their Soleras Station affordable housing project.

BPAT performed site flow, solar irradiance, and interior illuminance analyses to evaluate a number of variables. The site flow analysis provided insights into how best to place canopy elements, like trees, to shield from the wind without blocking desired sunlight.

site flow design analysis
Soleras Station Site Flow Design Analysis showing typical winds and snow drift in winter months.

The Greater Albuquerque Housing Partnership (GAHP) is similarly helping raise the bar in sustainable design and healthy living. A Solar PV Analysis for Sterling Downtown, an upcoming multi-family housing project in Albuquerque, demonstrated how GAHP could incorporate more PV panels to not only maximize renewable energy production, but also provide shaded parking and patios for residents.

This kind of enthusiasm and commitment from clients is driving the building industry to develop greener solutions, getting us closer to AIA 2030 goals.

Sterling Downtown PV Analysis
Sterling Downtown PV analysis showing 55kW system.

Where do we go next?

Architecture and the built environment is still responsible for roughly half of all energy expense in the United States. The AIA 2030 Progress Report from 2016 shows that new projects have an average predicted energy use intensity (pEUI) savings of 42%up from the previous year but far from the 70% target set for 2016.

Even though the building industry isn't on track with AIA 2030 milestones yet, there's a lot of promising news. For instance, 331 projects submitted to 2030 DDx in 2016 met or exceeded 70% energy savings, showing that we have the technology and ability to hit these targets moving forward.

Additionally, based on all AIA 2030 projects reported in 2016, the industry showed energy savings that are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 16.7 million metric tons. That's the equivalent of taking more than 3.5 million cars off the road for a year.

We still have a far way to go to meet the AIA 2030 goal of carbon neutral buildings. But armed with better data and more efficient and cost-effective tools, the building industry will continue making headway towards greener buildings. We're excited to continue working with our clients to reach new milestones in sustainable design that result in energy savings and a healthier environment.

Mercury Payment Sytems, LEED Gold

Dekker/Perich/Sabatini 2030 Commitment

"The places where we live, work, and play represent the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in America, as well as around the world. The design and construction industry has made significant strides toward creating high performance buildings of all types and uses. As a result, the industry is positioned to have a profound impact by continuing to foster high building performance and reducing building-related greenhouse gas emissions.

"As architects, we understand the need to exercise leadership in creating the built environment. We believe we must alter our profession’s practices and encourage our clients and the entire design and construction industry to join with us to change the course of the planet’s future.” - from the AIA 2030 Commitment letter signed by Steven J. Perich, Founding Principal / Architect