Architects’ Role in Achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2030
December 17, 2020
The AIA 2030 Commitment goals will increase the energy performance of project design work, and improve the quality of life for residents and guests of buildings.
SAN FRANCISCO—The American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment is a framework to provide standardized tools for US firms to track progress toward achieving carbon-neutral construction by 2030. KTGY Architecture + Planning, reaffirming its long-standing commitment to sustainable design, recently released its Sustainability Action Plan as the firm’s road map to meeting those goals.
“As a signatory of the AIA 2030 Commitment, creating a three-year Sustainability Action Plan is the first step,” said KTGY principal and chairman of the board Jill Williams. “The SAP addresses KTGY’s sustainability commitment within six focus areas: firm commitment, design and approach, evaluation and reporting, outreach and advocacy, training and education, and operations and outlook in response to meeting the goals of the AIA 2030 Commitment.”
With the building and construction industry accounting for 49% of total energy consumption and 47% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, architects aim to play a meaningful role in achieving carbon neutrality in construction by 2030.
“As one of the largest residential architecture practices in the country, we are compelled to play a significant part in finding creative and economically feasible ways to lower the carbon footprint of the buildings we design,” KTGY principal Ben Kasdan, who is serving as KTGY’s 2030 committee chair. “Ideally, the AIA 2030 Commitment goals will increase the energy performance of KTGY’s design work and improve the quality of the living experience for the residents and guests of the buildings and spaces that KTGY designs, and as a result, increase the value of those projects for our clients. On a day-to-day basis, the AIA 2030 Commitment will inspire a more informed design process with additional data and tools for tracking predicted energy performance and life cycle analysis.”
KTGY joins fellow firms in the AIA Large Firm Roundtable and other architects across the country who endeavor to reduce buildings’ dependence upon non-renewable resources and increase the energy performance of the buildings they design in order to combat climate change.
“Ultimately, the goal of the AIA 2030 Commitment is to design buildings that use 80% less non-renewable energy starting now as compared to a similar type of building of the same size and location. In 2025, the design goal ratchets up to using 90% less non-renewable energy than a typical building and meeting zero net energy standards by 2030,” Kasdan notes. “Joining the AIA 2030 Commitment sets KTGY apart along with other leading architectural firms in the United States that are also dedicated to creating sustainable developments, and signing on to the Commitment makes sustainability an integral part of KTGY’s 2020-2022 strategic plan.”
KTGY has designed numerous sustainable and high-performance residential projects, including the first subdivision of entirely LEED-certified homes at Carsten Crossings in Rocklin, CA in 2007, and the largest zero net energy on-campus student housing community in the University of California system at Plaza Verde at UC Irvine in 2019.
“The effects of climate change pose an imminent threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Jonathan Boriack, associate principal in KTGY Architecture + Planning’s Oakland office, tells GlobeSt.com. “One need only look at the wildfires and resultant air quality issues in the western portion of North America this year or the unprecedented hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico to see how our communities can be devastated.”
On a philosophical level, Boriack says architects are ethically bound to make a good faith effort to protect building users from the adverse effects of climate change.
“More tangibly, making thoughtful design decisions in terms of resource conservation and/or energy performance will provide increased value to the building owners by providing a higher quality experience for the end users,” he says. “Our efforts in this realm become both about increasing the quality of life for building occupants, while also bolstering our clients’ ability to remain relevant and successful in the future.”
The 2018 GWI Global Wellness Economy Monitor report noted that the global wellness economy grew at a rate of 6.4% from 2015 to 2017, nearly twice as fast as global economic growth.
Not coincidentally, a lot of good sustainability choices also support improved health and wellness, Boriack notes. Designs that adequately address natural light and ventilation, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, promote emotional and mental well-being, have an appropriate acoustical design, provide spaces for movement and exercise, and promote nourishment also typically exist intrinsically in high-performance buildings.
“These are elements in homes that potential buyers don’t just see as luxury anymore, but as crucial to their desire to live well in a space long term,” Boriack tells GlobeSt.com. “Not surprisingly, those experiential qualities of sustainable design also seem a lot like design responses to global pandemics.”
Recently, so much of the design responses related to sustainability and health and wellness have focused on energy use and the incorporation of smart technology in homes. Architects and designers ask the following questions:
- How to adapt spaces to respond to and optimize those technologies and spur further innovation?
- With the rise in all-electric homes, how can roof designs evolve to incorporate solar or expand solar capacity?
- Can spaces be created that blur the lines between outside and inside to engage with nature but guarantee people are breathing clean air?
- How are planning efforts being adapted to respond to future changes in relationship with the automobile?
“Ultimately, it is our responsibility as global citizens, and as design and construction professionals to use our talents and skills to protect and preserve the planet through our thoughtful design and construction decisions,” Boriack tells GlobeSt.com.
As an example, Corsair Flats located at 171 West Atlantic Ave. in Alameda is the first of two affordable residential communities to be completed by Eden Housing at Alameda Point’s Site A and designed by KTGY Architecture + Planning. KTGY partnered with Eden to incorporate green features into the design of Corsair Flats, which has received GreenPoint Rating Gold.