May 6, 2016

2030 District Movement Targeting Reduced Emissions Sees National Growth


In a path-breaking career that has spanned four decades and offered the world new ways of making buildings more energy efficient, Ed Mazria years ago had a hunch that things weren’t what they could be.

“It was clear to me early on that we were planning and designing buildings in ways that were inefficient and required too much energy to operate,” says the internationally known architect, who is also the author of the landmark Passive Solar Energy Book.

“When climate change became an issue, I discovered that much of the country’s energy production was used in buildings,” continues Mazria, the founder of the Santa Fe-based architectural firm of Mazria Associates.

In studying the problems of energy consumption via individual structures, Mazria simultaneously saw the potential for cross-industry solutions, noting that the “building design professionals—architects, engineers, and planners—had a great responsibility, but also a great opportunity to make a real difference.”

Out of that conviction grew not only a commitment to design buildings that are carbon neutral but the founding of Mazria’s non-profit Architecture2030 and the eventual launching of the 2030 District movement, which today is seeing cities across the country working towards the goal of reduced energy, water and transportation emissions.

The 2030 Districts – which include Albuquerque, Seattle, Cleveland, Denver, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Stamford, San Francisco, Dallas, Toronto and Grand Rapids – are in turn a response to Mazria’s 2030 Challenge, issued in 2006.

That challenge, says Mazria, “that all new buildings and major renovations should meet high-performance targets and be carbon neutral by 2030,” is Architecture 2030’s primary reason for being.

“And the 2030 Districts program comes out of that, targeting reductions in energy, water use and emissions from transportation for defined urban areas across the country,” continues Mazria.

“Crucially, each district is private-sector led, with property owners and managers joining with other professionals and community groups,” Mazria notes.

How the 2030 Districts program works is classically seen in Denver where, says Adam Knoff, revealing aggregate building performance data has encouraged owners of less efficient buildings to participate, knowing their individual building’s performance will not be published.

“Secondly, by incorporating more buildings in this effort, 2030 Districts are able to create unique, valuable benefits that help improve building performance that are only available to 2030 District members,” continues Knoff, who is the chairman of the 2030 District in Denver.

Knoff adds: “These benefits include discounts on energy efficient equipment, free building audits, and discounted building analytics software platforms, to name a few. Creating these economies of scale are only possible with a district approach.”

San Antonio, which joined the program late last year, has also been working on data collection. “And I think with that first step we are doing quite well,” says Heather Gayle Holdridge, chair of the San Antonio 2030 District Leadership Committee.

“We already have buildings that have signed on, and they are sharing their data,” continues Holdrudge.

“There is a thirst or hunger in our community for people to understand what typical energy/water performance data should be,” she adds. “The next step is that we all need to get together and understand why our baseline is what it is, and then to understand what are the logical steps to take to reduce that usage.”

Although each 2030 District has the same basic reduction goals, individual Districts are encouraged to add to those goals, depending upon the needs of their local community.

“We added a storm water management component in 2014,” reports Susan Wickwire, executive director of the Seattle 2030 District. “I think we are the first and only one to have that so far.”

But Wickwire notes that after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast in 2012, the Stamford 2030 District added resilience to storms as a focus area. Similarly, the Albuquerque 2030 District has added livability and economic redevelopment to their mission list.

“Some of the Districts have started to say ‘Hey, we have some local problems that perhaps could be addressed with the goals and want to add that,’” says Wickwire, who adds that an emphasis on the needs of each District is what the overall 2030 District movement is all about.

Just as unique, the 2030 Districts are not involved with any government entity.

That, says Mazria, is by design: “There are many strengths of not having a 2030 be run by the city government. Crucially, the program is not dependent on the sponsorship of an individual mayor or administration, so whatever changes politically within the city, the District can still thrive.”

But that freedom, Mazria also admits, is the “only potential weakness” in the effort, noting that such districts have to be collaborative and need support from across the community.

“Ultimately, this is a good thing, but it can take time to get all the necessary people together,” he remarks.

Noting the rapid growth so far of the 2030 District movement nationally, Mazria adds: “The fact that twelve 2030 Districts have formed so quickly illustrates the value of this private-sector led approach to transform the downtown core of cities.”

“The growth has been remarkable, and each new District deepens the experiences and best practices that can be shared across the 2030 Districts Network.”


By Garry Boulard

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