Architecture 2030 Challenge

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In response to global climate change, key leaders of the building design industry have established a goal of "zero net energy" buildings by the year 2030.  In May 2007, representatives of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Architecture 2030 Challenge, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), supported by representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy, finalized an agreement of understanding that they hope will result in carbon-neutral buildings.

The Challenge
This agreement provides a common basis and measure of progress as building design professionals create greater numbers of buildings that use substantially less energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create spaces that are healthy and comfortable. The agreement specifies energy performance targets, beginning with an immediate reduction of 50 percent in energy use for all new buildings . This target increases rapidly, with a 60 percent reduction proposed for 2010, adding an additional 10 percent reduction every five years, until carbon neutral buildings are the norm by 2030.

How to Get There?
With the introduction of the Challenge, the design community is asking… How will these targets be reached? Is it possible? Well, it's clear that getting to these targets will require significant changes in the way buildings are designed and built. Rapid diffusion of innovation will be required. New technologies and building materials will make a contribution, but the fundamental innovations needed to immediately cut average energy use in half will have to come from designers learning to rethink the way they design buildings.

Search for Synergies
Many initiatives are being made to formalize an "integrated design" process. Among these efforts, G.Z. Brown, FAIA, Director of the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory at Department of Architecture of the University of Oregon, collaborating with practitioners such as Kent Duffy, FAIA, SRG Partnership, and Michael Hatten, PE, SOLARC Architecture and Engineering, has been refining integrated design practices that deliver buildings with exceptional energy performance. Says Brown, "The heart of the integrated design process is the search for synergies among attributes of climate, use, design, and systems, that will result in increased performance, while reducing project first cost and operating expense."

Designers practice within a number of constraints: a client's program and the needs of occupants; building codes and zoning requirements; site-specific limitations; the impact of climate; the need to integrate multiple building systems; and the performance capabilities of equipment, technologies and materials. A building's energy performance is broadly determined by four general sets of criteria among these constraints: climate, use, design, and systems. One of the approaches that Brown uses and BetterBricks is promoting to help designers create synthesis, is to begin seeing these constraints as opportunities to generate significant energy savings.

Key Recommendations
Below are a few key recommendations, organized by the four sets of criteria:

Climate. Analyze local site and climate resources for heating, cooling, and lighting: analyze climate effects and resources, the coincidence of climate and building use patterns, and how climate can complement building systems.

Use. Analyze owner and user needs and creatively consider schedules and comfort criteria when developing the program and establishing the construction budget. Most buildings are either unoccupied or are partially occupied, most of the time. Buildings should be designed as carefully for these periods as they are for peak periods. The potential benefits of flexible, rather than fixed, occupancy schedules should also be considered. Classify spaces by the degree of individual ownership and control of thermal and visual conditions.

Loads. Understand the implications of building form, organization, and envelope and the selection of materials-mass, insulation and glazing, for example-upon loads. Use building design to create smaller loads (reducing system costs). This includes passive strategies such as daylighting and natural ventilation.

Systems. Design the building to improve efficiency and performance and to reduce the cost of multiple and redundant building systems: structural, mechanical, electrical, lighting, acoustic, and civil. Explore building and site design opportunities to reduce or eliminate HVAC system loads. Separate the ventilation system from heating and cooling systems.

When loads are significantly reduced, the number of hours the HVAC and lighting systems are used becomes smaller. Make sure that HVAC and lighting system choices and sizing are based upon the actual schedule and the severity of actual loads rather than prescriptive design conditions. Select high efficiency equipment to meet the reduced loads.

Rethinking Design
Many architects describe conceptual design, schematic design, design development and the preparation of construction documents as a design process, when it might be more accurately described as a schedule for deliverables and budgeting. When discussing the practice of integrated design, Brown makes a distinction between those aspects of project management that remain closely tied to the project schedule and the aspects of integrated design that can proceed more independently throughout the project phases.

The discussion of who to involve early in the process, when and how often various project team members should meet, how to improve communication and interactions, and the organization and structure of charrettes and work sessions are certainly important. These elements of integrated design are discussed in more detail in the Tools and Resources Section - Integrated Design

While the search for synthesis and new design solutions is less likely to happen when the members of a design team work in relative isolation, they won't necessarily be enhanced in project team meetings with broad agendas that must also meet the needs of non-designers. Ensuring that activities such as goal setting, commissioning, and energy modeling are properly scheduled and receive the attention required by the team, will help to ensure a successful project and verify project performance, but significant breakthroughs in building energy performance will take place when the design process supports the search for synthesis. Therefore it is recommended that there either be two sets of meetings, or two parts of each meeting: one for goal setting, process and management and another for technical design solutions.

There are critical points where the design process and the project schedule intersect, where proper coordination will provide distinct benefit. By scheduling certain tasks at particular times or in a given sequence, the project manager can facilitate a design that strives for increased performance. It's also recommended that full team meetings be held at key points along the project schedule to check on progress toward the goals.

Michael Hatten, a mechanical engineer with SOLARC Architecture and Engineering, who has worked with Brown to advance the practice of integrated design, has observed the breakthroughs that can emerge from a project team's exploration of new techniques.

"Sometimes the past experience of a design team can become a barrier to new systems thinking. When a team is guided through those barriers by defining the effect of load reducing design strategies using modeling techniques, a conceptual awakening can happen. The "light bulb" comes on as folks realize that, once heating, cooling, and electric loads are moved into a new range, systems possibilities are greatly expanded. This is where building design becomes exciting: where the mechanical engineer and architect begin to collaborate on the design of external shading devices as a cooling system element of a building, and where the reality of achieving zero-energy performance in a building moves from an abstract dream to an achievable design goal.

For example, the evaluation of load reducing design strategies in the high performance classroom, that ultimately inspired the classroom design at Mount Angel Abbey Academic Center in Oregon, indicated that it was possible to maintain occupant comfort without any conventional mechanical systems. Cooling season comfort was maintained by passive ventilation and internal thermal mass. Heating season comfort was maintained by energizing electric lighting (or small electric heaters).  In a very real integrated way, the heating and cooling systems were actually a synthesis of envelope insulation, floor and ceiling mass, and daylighting strategies."

The Project Manager's Role
The role of the project manager is critical to the successful delivery of an integrated design process. A project manager can take very real steps to organize project roles and responsibilities to deliver integrated solutions that meet project performance goals. Such steps may include.

  • Train staff in the use of design tools and analytical techniques that help reveal synergistic opportunities between context, programming, and architectural and engineering design.
  • Assign individuals the responsibility for delivering integrated solutions or specific services. For example, rather than maintaining daylighting design and electric lighting as separate activities, task someone with an integrated lighting solution.

Commissioning and post-occupancy evaluation are two additional activities, not directly related to the design process, which should be added to the project schedule because of the quality of the information they can provide. Commissioning is critical to assure that the design intent and owner's requirements are met and that systems function as designed. Post-occupancy evaluation will help measure, verify, and document building performance and occupant satisfaction; and provide important feedback about the success of integrated design solutions that the design team can incorporate into a continuous improvement process.

Integrated design, with the potential to spur rethinking of the design process, can make an enormous contribution toward achieving 2030 Challenge goals.

Kent Duffy, FAIA, SRG Architects, when speaking of his experiences exploring integrated design solutions on projects such as the Lillis Business Complex (University of Oregon, Eugene, OR) and the Mount Angel Abbey Academic Center (Saint Benedict, OR) has said:

"Creating buildings of this caliber requires a remarkable level of collaboration founded upon four important cornerstones: 1) a knowledge base that comes from in-depth research; 2) exceptional engineering that efficiently reaps the rich potential of latent environmental forces such as daylight, radiant energy, wind, and pressure differentials; 3) great care in shaping spaces that inspire the people who occupy them as well as thoroughly addressing their comfort; and 4) clearly communicating all of this to those who will occupy, operate and maintain these buildings so that the buildings can, in fact, live up to projected levels of effectiveness and environmental benefit."

Kent Duffy, SRG Partnerships

By Jeff Cole, Konstrukt, Inc. for BetterBricks

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