Large firms may find it harder to turn the ship, but they also have more resources at hand. Last fall the international firm Perkins+Will publicly declared its commitment to 2030. Now its green team is working on measuring energy performance across project types. Are they hitting the goals? “In some cases we are, in some cases not,” says Kathy Wardle, LEED AP, associate principal and director of research in the Vancouver, British Columbia, office of Busby Perkins+Will. “Some clients come to us wanting a high-performing building from the get-go; others don't mandate it. We're trying to benchmark and educate on every project, even if clients don't want it, so we know where we stand against the 2030 targets.”

Residential developers are Busby Perkins+Will's toughest customers, since they're typically selling what they build. But there is progress. Phase one of Dockside Green, a 100-unit mixed-use project in Victoria, British Columbia, beat the national energy code by 58 percent and is being submitted for LEED Platinum certification. Which brings up another measuring stick: Busby Perkins+Will is trying to decipher how the 2030 targets match up with LEED energy credits. For example, The Vento, a mixed-use project in Calgary, Alberta, qualified for LEED Platinum this year but fell just short of 2030, beating energy code by 47 percent.

So how do LEED buildings fare on 2030? According to Gregory H. Kats, a Washington, D.C.-based LEED consultant and managing director of Good Energies—an international clean-energy venture capital firm with five offices in Europe and North America—a recent study showed that from 2000 to 2008, the average energy use of LEED buildings amounted to about 30 percent below code. Now, however, the point system is being remapped to address core issues weighted more heavily toward climate change, as identified by the National Institute of Standards and Technologies. The shift to that rating is expected to result in 40 percent to 50 percent reductions, depending on the level of certification.

Nonetheless, Kats sees the 2030 numbers as just the beginning of a snowball effect. “Methodologically, the 2030 baselines aren't precisely defined,” Kats says, adding that, ultimately, it doesn't matter if you're measuring against ASHRAE, CBECS, or something else. “Architecture 2030 is a fantastic initiative and tool, but the latest science suggests that those targets should be moved up. Add to that the declining cost of going green, and there are enormous opportunities. When you see California trying to get residences to net-zero by 2020 and the United Kingdom by 2016, it's clear we need to act aggressively. I think you can cost-effectively get a 50 percent energy reduction in new buildings, but we have to push beyond that and go pretty quickly to net-zero energy.”

green sweep

Although green design has been steadily moving from the fringe to the mainstream in the last six years or so, only recently—with prompting from Hurricane Katrina and the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth—have we begun to take seriously the predictions of coming catastrophe resulting from global warming and to understand the way the human race is changing the environment. Presented with startling research from Mazria and others, the AIA adopted 2030 standards in late 2005. Since then—most notably under the leadership of 2007 president RK Stewart, FAIA—it has made sustainability part of its core identity.

Others have joined in too. At Greenbuild 2006, Kats facilitated a closed-door meeting during which the AIA, ASHRAE, and USGBC agreed to collectively take up the 2030 Challenge. He says it's admirable that these organizations have not been territorial about a mandate developed by an outside group. “They were each giving up territory by acknowledging a shared responsibility,” he says. “This is a real act of leadership in putting the community ahead of what could be interpreted as narrow self-interest.” Last February, the Residential Energy Services Network also announced it would embed the 2030 metrics into its Home Energy Rating System, giving the housing sector a common baseline for achieving the targets.

In addition to a smorgasbord of green initiatives and the planned renovation of its Washington, D.C., headquarters to achieve a 60 percent reduction in fossil fuel use by 2012 and carbon neutrality by 2030, the AIA is also greening its awards programs. Katherine Austin, AIA, Sebastopol, Calif., who helped rewrite the calls for entries, says the 2009 programs will reflect the changes. “The AIA is now asking all those who submit projects to demonstrate with specific metrics how they are meeting the 2030 Challenge,” Austin says. “This will be a wake-up call to any member who isn't thinking seriously about this.”

She adds, “I want to get away from the awards being this ‘monument in the park' idea to relating to the community and city. There's been far too much attention on the ‘starchitect' thing. If the big guys want to play, they'll have to be part of this movement. It will be up to the juries, and I really hope they'll follow through.”

As a longtime eco-champion and author of The Passive Solar Energy Book, Mazria and his message have evolved at a critical moment in history. It's powerful enough to unite professionals from across the building industry. And it's a concept that clients can easily understand. “What's interesting is that our research can bridge a lot of disciplines,” he says. “Back in the '70s and '80s, we were leading the charge with passive solar and other energy strategies. Now we've been educating ourselves on both climate change and construction and coming up with ideas that work. We seem to be in the right place at the right time with the kind of information we can bring.”