It’s now been seven years since DBA signed the AIA 2030 Commitment to evaluate the impact our design decisions have on an individual project's energy performance. We’ve written our goals, we’ve launched an Action Plan (including a new one this year!), and we’ve reported our project metrics.
In 2022, we reported data for 35 projects—almost 5 million gross square feet of DBA designs—with an average predicted EUI reduction of 63%.
And what have we learned?
We’ve come to see the 2030 metrics as an important gateway to a deeper, portfolio-wide understanding and perspective about our work. We don’t regard the 2030 metrics as a literal goal as much as a framework to develop our own set of standards when it comes to portfolio performance. In my view, EUI as a metric is a necessary nuisance. As I spelled out in 2015, both identifying a meaningful baseline and calculating EUI (energy use intensity) involves a lot of abstraction. I still believe that the quicker we can get beyond “percent reduction of EUI compared to a perhaps-questionably-meaningful baseline based on predictive energy modeling” as The Goal, the more we can start to form our firms’ own intrinsic motivators and standards for project performance.
But that doesn’t mean I’m against the exercise of gathering and reporting EUI across our portfolio. For example, 2030 has served as a powerful excuse to build a frame of reference for understanding EUI in the multifamily housing sector—what it's sensitive to and how much we think it matters in a broader context, especially given the value of housing to society. The exercise has also improved our literacy with energy metrics. They have enabled us to set the 2030 targets we think are the right ones for the multifamily sector: meet a maximum energy demand of 25 kbtu/sf-year (actual, not predicted), and utilize enough on-site PV to cut that demand at least in half. This is ambitious but achievable in the next 8 years (indeed several current projects already beat this goal). Most importantly, landing on this goal allows us to focus our priorities on the full spectrum of decisions that impact climate change mitigation and response in housing development.