To reduce the building design industry's impact on the environment, key leaders in that sector are collaborating to establish carbon-neutral buildings by the year 2030.

The American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Architecture 2030, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), and the U.S. Green Building Council, supported by representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy, finalized an agreement of understanding this week, establishing a common starting point and a goal of net zero energy buildings.

The groups say this agreement allows the building design sector to move ahead with designing buildings that use substantially less energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create spaces that are both healthy and comfortable.

While focused on designing net zero energy buildings, the ultimate goal is carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. In joining together, the groups recognize that the building sector accounts for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. annually.

To reach that goal, AIA, ASHRAE, Architecture 2030, IESNA and USGBC agreed to define the baseline starting point for their common target goals as the national average energy consumption of existing U.S. commercial buildings as reported by the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey. CBECS data is a set of whole-building energy use measurements gathered by the DOE's Energy Information Administration, which can be used to determine a national energy use intensity using kBtu/sqft-yr as the metric.

"Collectively, our programs, initiatives and goals now have an agreed-upon baseline to operate from in our common quest to achieve a sustainable future," said Terry Townsend, ASHRAE president. "The challenge is now upon each organization to make good on their commitments."

"The task we face is daunting," Edward Mazria, founder and executive director of Architecture 2030, said. "Working separately, we could accomplish something significant in each of our respective spheres. But by working together, we actually have a chance to influence the course of history -- and we will."

"Establishing a baseline for reducing energy consumption is a critical step in the goal of curbing the emissions generated by the built environment," said AIA president RK Stewart, FAIA. "From this baseline, the design and construction industry can use this reference point to ensure that new or renovated buildings are designed to operate in a smart, healthy and efficient manner."

"This agreement is a significant demonstration of the importance of an ongoing alliance among the key organizations responsible for building design," Kevin Flynn, IESNA president, said. "Careful deliberations have resulted in agreed upon goals for addressing substantial reduction in energy use. IESNA looks forward to pursuing these goals in collaboration with the partnering organizations."

"By working together on this important initiative, we will make a difference in the built environment," said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council. "Buildings are a big piece of the climate change puzzle but the good news is they are also part of the solution, and together we will make an impact."


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.