By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP
The year 2030 seems so far away, but we are closer to it than we are to the year 2000. What technological breakthroughs await us, our children and our grandchildren? Will our businesses grow? Will we achieve world peace? Will the Cubs finally win the pennant?
What about the planet? Will we turn the tide in order to protect our natural resources for many generations to come? A non-profit organization called Architecture 2030 has plans to help make it cleaner.
There are many types of greenhouse gasses. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities.1 In 2013, CO2 accounted for about 82% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, and the building sector represents almost half of CO2 emissions in the US. A building releases CO2 throughout its lifetime. This includes during construction, operation, renovation and deconstruction. Add up all those emissions and the result is a significant impact.
Slowing the growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector is key to addressing climate change. To accomplish this, Architecture 2030 issued The 2030 Challenge in 2006, asking the global architecture and building community to adopt targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from building operations.2 The goal is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses so buildings become carbon-neutral by the year 2030.
To understand this goal, let’s first define the term carbon neutral and then see how it applies to your business. Carbon neutrality refers to the net release of CO2 into the atmosphere. When we perform an action such as building, operating, maintaining, renovating or demolishing a house, we release a certain amount of CO2 and other carbon compounds into the atmosphere. It starts with the extraction of raw materials needed to build the foundation, roof, cabinets and carpet. We release CO2by using fossil fuel energy to heat and cool the house. If we are able to perform actions to reduce or offset these emissions by as much as we released during the building’s lifetime, we have achieved zero emissions or carbon neutrality. Carbon neutral is not be confused with energy neutral. A carbon neutral building uses no greenhouse-gas-emitting energy to operate. A net zero energy building, on the other hand, must produce as much energy on site as it consumes.
Architecture 2030 is asking the global architecture and building community to adopt the following targets:
- All new buildings, developments and major renovations shall be designed to meet a fossil fuel, greenhouse gas-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 70% below the regional (or country) average/median for that building type.
- At a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area shall be renovated annually to meet a fossil fuel, greenhouse gas-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 70% of the regional (or country) average/median for that building type.
- The fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings and major renovations shall be increased to:
- 80% in 2020
- 90% in 2025
- Carbon-neutral in 2030 (using no fossil fuel, greenhouse gas-emitting energy to operate)
All of this may or may not be important to you, but it may be important to someone who buys from you. Many designers, contractors and engineers have adopted this 2030 Challenge, and the number doing so is increasing. This has resulted in a new program started in 2011, called the 2030 Challenge for Products.
While building operation is responsible for the largest amount of CO2 emissions, there is a significant contribution from building products and their material extraction, manufacturing, transportation and usage. The program calls for products for new buildings, developments and renovations to be specified to meet a maximum carbon-equivalent footprint of 35% below the product category average.
The embodied carbon-equivalent footprint reduction will be increased to:
- 40% or better in 2020
- 45% or better in 2025
- 50% or better in 2030
If you sell products to a company that has adopted the 2030 Challenge, you will receive a request for information (see form).
How do you find your Embodied Carbon-Equivalent Footprint? You first have to conduct a life cycle assessment and environmental product declaration to establish your benchmark and then commit to meeting the challenge targets. In order to do this, you need a product category rule. This may seem like a lot, but there’s good news: a PCR now exists thanks to a partnership between NPCA, Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute. The NPCA Sustainability Committee began working on this in 2013 to ensure that when the request came in, the association would be ready to help. For information on PCRs, EPDs and LCAs, visit the article published in Sept.-Oct. 2014.
NPCA must always look ahead, sometimes as far as 2030, to anticipate what the precast concrete marketplace will become. All indicators point to more sustainable green building, whether through incentives or regulations. This is why the Sustainability Committee continues to work on projects that will help members navigate these greener pastures in the future, near and far.
For more questions on this or other sustainable topics, please contact Claude Goguen, director of sustainability and technical education, at (317) 571-9500 or at [email protected]
Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, is NPCA’s director of sustainability and technical education.
2: See more information on the 2030 challenge at architecture2030.org