Pittsburgh is a beautiful city that sits at the confluence of three great rivers. It is home to three storied sports franchises and several great universities. It also is the leading city in a set of challenges issued by an organization called Architecture 2030. These challenges are called The 2030 Challenge.
The challenge, which was issued in 2011, is for buildings to incrementally reduce their energy use, transportation-related emissions and water use, with the final reductions in 2030. The goal is for participating cities — districts — to reduce their EUI by 10 percent by the end of last year, 20 percent by the end of 2020, 35 percent by the end of 2025 and 50 percent by the end of 2030.The program so far has participants in 11 cities in addition to Pittsburgh. The local district in Pittsburgh aimed at meeting the challenge goals was formed by the Green Building Alliance in 2012.
The are measured in three categories: Water use, internal building energy use and transportation-related emission. Building are profiled according to their size and uses. For instance, a building with 100,000 square feet of office space, a restaurant on the ground floor and a basement parking garage will be measured against buildings with a similar profile, said Anna J. Siefken, the Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Pittsburgh 2030 District Director.
The goals also are normalized for weather: Buildings in different climates will use varying amounts of energy even if both are being equally efficient. For example, equally performing buildings in Pittsburgh and San Antonio will have different air conditioning and heating needs and, thus, use different amounts of energy.
So far, the challenge – which is soliciting new member cities – has been accepted by buildings covering 270 million square feet. In Pittsburgh, 438 buildings covering 68.2 million square feet are participating, Siefken said. The other 11 cities in the challenge are San Antonio, Seattle, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, Dallas, Toronto, Albuquerque, Grand Rapids, MI and Stamford, CT. Four of the cities — Denver, Stamford and Seattle in addition to Pittsburgh — exceeded their 2015 benchmarks.
Siefken said that buildings can use as much as one-third of a city’s resources water and energy resources. The collective goals for all the districts are measured by energy use intensity (EUI), which is derived by dividing the amount of energy consumed by the square footage of the structure. A similarly derived water metric also is used, Siefken said.
The Pittsburgh 2030 District is at the forefront. At the end of 2015, Siefken said, the city reduced aggregated building energy use 12.5 percent, transportation-related emissions by 24.2 percent and water use intensity by 10.3 percent. The reductions were due to a combination of efficiency programs and the general increase of efficiency of the equipment and products used in the buildings. “The idea is that technological advances are happening and are accelerating the rate of savings every day,” Siefken said. “Replacing an incandescent bulb with a CFL is good savings,” she said. “It still is exponentially less than going from an incandescent to an LED. Technology drives savings in many ways and we anticipate that will continue.”
A program that rates so many buildings in some many places will generate many numbers and percentages. It is easy to lose sight of the main point: There are great gains to be made in citywide efficiency. Indeed, Siefken points out that the worst performing buildings are the ones where the easiest and quickest gains can be found.
Siefken said that a major takeaway from the program is that the best approach is to jump right in. “[G]etting started can be the hardest part but the reward of doing an easier project — low hanging fruit such as a lighting retrofit or HVAC tuneup are great,” she said. “They are not difficult first steps and in many cases, if paired with incentives typically available from utility or non-profits, they can pay for themselves in as few as two-and-a-half years. In some cases we’ve seen eight month payback.”
Siefken added that there are organizations – such as the Green Building Alliance – can be invaluable resources. Along the same lines, she said that there is power in collaboration. “Being a part of a collective non-competitive cohort of facility managers is an important way to learn best practices,” she said. “In many cases even competitive organizations will freely share information about strategies they are employing because they all like to save money and they don’t mind if other people save money too.”
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