2020 for 2030 Chicago Residence

2020 for 2030


2020 for 2030

Progress towards AIA’s 2030 commitment.

By Nathan Kipnis, FAIA, LEED BD+C

2020 for 2030 Chicago residence

This may be a watershed year – in many senses of the word – for sustainable design. The groundswell for living a more sustainable life, driven by concerns about climate change made plain with visceral images of rising oceans and lakes and burning landscapes, is reflected in the growing number of people around the world who are pledging to live better and greener. Findings from the recently released Healthy & Sustainable Living study from GlobeScan in conjunction with WWF International and other partners, found that 54 percent of those surveyed internationally said that healthy and sustainable living is a major priority of their lives. 56 percent of young adults, 18 to 24, say they feel guilty about their impact on the environment.


The goal of the American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Commitment, when it was launched, was to facilitate these kinds of shifts to more sustainable living by transforming the practice of architecture to work towards carbon neutral buildings, developments and renovations by 2030.

The impetus for change has certainly accelerated. At the 2019 AIA National Convention, members overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring an urgent climate imperative for action in carbon reduction and calling for support of all potential partners, including peers, clients, policymakers and the public.

Now, in early 2020, we’re 10 years out from the goal year, working at a more urgent pace. Where does the AIA 2030 Commitment stand and where is it headed?

As now the longest serving member on the AIA 2030 Commitment working committee, I can report that although we have a long way to go, progress in building efficiency is starting to be seen. There has been an upward shift in participation in the Design Data Exchange, which reports and measures architects’ progress toward the AIA 2030 Challenge. That helps the industry gauge efficacy and allows architects to determine their best practices and compare their project performances. I compare this exchange to a dashboard on a Prius – unless you’re getting feedback, it’s difficult to make improvements. Benchmarking your work allows you the opportunity to do better and to demonstrate that you are.


Nathan Kipnis

“This may be a watershed year – in many senses of the word – for sustainable design.”
— Nathan Kipnis

There are some new notable initiatives coming from the 2030 Commitment. One will be the integration of offsite renewable energy for projects and incorporating carbon calculations in addition to predicted energy use calculations. There is a strong push to have more firms have their project energy modeled, which allows you to make real time improvements while still early in the design phase of a project. Another change is a simplified Design Data Exchange, which should make it easier and more insightful for users and those who are analyzing the data.

Looking ahead, our goal for the next three years is to double the number of signatory firms from 600 to 1,200. We’re also aiming to significantly increase the number of firms reporting their data and improving the efficiency of each project.
Another way to fast-track progress, we believe, is to start more regional AIA 2030 groups. We’ve had growing interest and participation in such groups in Chicago, Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, among other areas.

Meanwhile, in other exciting developments, AIA is rolling out new Framework for Design Excellence, based on ten categories. They are launching these in sets of three. The first set is “Designing for Energy”, “Designing for Equitable Communities” and “Designing for Economy”, which will be followed by “Designing for Wellness”, ‘Designing for Integration”, “Designing for Ecology”, “Designing for Water”, “Designing for Resources” and “Designing for Change.”

As concerns about our planet mount and as homeowners, businesses and developers get serious about making changes in their structures, I believe we’ve hit a tipping point, and one that leads our 2030 Commitment goals.