Compared with other developed countries, Canada and the United States are now ‘behind the eight ball’ in addressing energy use and GHG emissions.
The American Institute of Architects’ Architecture 2030 Challenge, with aggressive targets for energy efficiency, has been adopted by many organizations and governments, including: the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC), the CaGBC, USGBC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, ASHRAE, IESNA, and more than 650 U.S. cities. Until now, the feasibility of achieving these goals has been regarded as uncertain ornearly impossible by many practitioners. These targets include reducing energy use (and resulting carbon emissions) by 90% in 2030 new buildings compared with 2005 averages.
However, a newly released report series published by the Secretariat of the Committee for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) concludes that the Architecture 2030 Challenge goals can technically be met – provided there is an “aggressive market uptake of existing and emerging technologies and construction methods.” Additionally, some national building sectors’ GHG emission levels appear to fall far below 1990 levels, by 2030. The CEC’s summary report, Green Building in North America, references an impressive background study, Paper One: Green Building Energy Scenarios for 2030, which appears to be a significant substantiation for proponents of the 2030 Challenge and supporters of net-zero-energy programs.
In Paper One, the researchers modeled two scenarios with energy-saving measures in new and existing buildings in Canada, Mexico and the U.S and compared them to their modeling of the Business As Usual (BAU) scenario, from 2005-2030.
AIA/RAIC Scenario: Used NC & EB modeling assumptions from the 2030 Challenge
‘Deep Green’ Scenario: Combined: a) commercial/residential archetypes plus additional super-efficient national versions, with b) major market penetration strategy for high-performance buildings assuming no substantial technical, financial or market barriers to entry. The sole explicit clean energy technological measure used in this analysis was solar thermal.
BAU Scenario: EB demolition, retrofits and equipment replacement were assumed; and, factors & trends were included e.g. new and committed building code changes, US sub-prime mortgage impacts and a 13% home size increase predicted by US Annual Energy Outlook 2005-2030.
- Starting year for building efficiency measures’ market uptake: 2008 (Canada); 2010 (US)
Simulations did not include predictions about energy efficiency policy and attitudinal impacts, e.g. from political climate changes, industry views on climate-change and carbon-emissions, and successful demand management programs. Passive measures were implicit in the assumed approaches for energy demand reduction.
This study indicates that the AIA/RAIC 2030 Challenge goals are achievable – technically. Moreover, by 2030, for the US residential and commercial sectors, and for the Canadian residential sector, GHG emissions are significantly lower than 1990 levels i.e. the Kyoto reference point. To achieve these goals, about 90% of Canadian residential and commercial EB would undergo major renovations or energy retrofits by 2030; and in the US, 42% of residential EB and 61% of commercial EB would be affected.
GHG emission impacts:
Comparing the GHG emissions from the buildings sector under the three scenarios - ‘Deep Green,’ AIA/RAIC 2030 Challenge, and BAU – in relation to the 1990 levels referenced by the Kyoto Protocol, a significant demand for onsite renewables and clean power procurement is revealed:
In 2010, Canada’s commercial sector will need to offset about 11 MT of carbon emissionsvia onsite renewable energy or via buying clean power - just to achieve levels immediately below those in 1990. However, by 2030, CO2eq emissions in both the Deep Green scenario and the 2030 Challenge have dropped to 1990 levels. So there is still a long way to go to achieve levels under 1990’s.
U.S. residential sector GHG emissions in the results, however, fall below the 1990 levels by 2015 and continue to drop over time.
U.S. commercial sector GHG emissions also fall beginning in 2020 to under 1990 levels, and then continue dropping.
- Even in 2030, Canada’s residential sector will need to offset about 12 MT of carbon emissions via onsite renewable energy or via buying clean power to achieve the 2030 Challenge goals, but nevertheless are well below 1990 levels.
For both of the U.S. analyses, the researchers assumed that on-site renewables would be a small proportion of the load remaining in 2010 and this will increase to 100% given uptake of aggressive energy efficiency measures, in 2030.
Adelaar et al did not suggest specific clean energy measures apart from solar: when solar renewables are engaged in the Scenario, they are best used when aggressive measures are implemented to reduce 75% of energy needs in new residences. By 2025, of the 25% remaining energy required, 50% of that could come from solar power.
To achieve a goal of net-zero-energy by 2030, North Americans need to incentivize and invest heavily in: renewables (solar pv, solar thermal, and – in my opinion - wind power, digesters, microhydro, and geothermal); state-of-the-art building envelope construction materials and measures as well as energy HVAC equipment; and in energy efficient appliances. In addition, the researchers state that “aggressive policy measures” are vital to achieving these goals. The policies: 
Financing systems for energy efficiency improvements e.g. that address net lease arrangements where the developer or owner isn’t responsible for energy operating costs. This recommendation also refers to increased market awareness of benefits attached to specific energy efficiency measures that is sufficient to enable dollar cost benefit quantification and would also impact which measures utilities’ DSM programs would incentivize. Adelaar et al also note the need for clearly delimited carbon taxation or carbon trading mechanisms for buildings.
Energy prices that reflect the full societal costs of energy supply
R&D for superior cost- and energy-efficiencies in building and clean energy technologies, and demonstration projects to showcase technological innovations and validate performance for market acceptance.
- Suitable energy efficiency costing and valuation
Enhanced building energy efficiency and reduced GHG emissions would contribute considerably toward mitigating global climate change impacts. And, this could help bring about enormous economic, environmental and social benefits throughout North America, such as productivity gains and IEQ- and views-engendered health system savings. This study is ground-breaking in its implications for both public policy and future technology development.
Green Syndicated Columnist Sonja Persram is lead author of Marketing Green Buildings to Owners/Tenants of Leased Properties for the Canada Green Building Council (2007) with co-authors Nils Larsson (MRAIC) and Mark Lucuik (P.Eng, LEED AP). Ms. Persram wrote: Green Buildings: A Strategic Analysis of North American Markets for Frost & Sullivan (published 2006) addressing Energy, Water and Facilities Management; and the U.S.A. portion of International Sustainable Building Policy Initiatives, a 2007 study for Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation whose project lead was Nils Larsson. She is a member of the CaGBC Greater Toronto Chapter’s Business Development Committee, USGBC’s Social Equity Task Force and the WorldGBC’s Tools & Projects Committee. Contact: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges: the Secretariat Report to Council Under Article 13 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, Commission for Environmental Cooperation, March 13, 2008. http://www.cec.org/pubs_docs/documents/index.cfm?varlan=english&ID=2242 citing: www.architecture2030.org
 Martin Adelaar & Mark Pasini (Marbek Resource Consultants); Stephen Selkowitz (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory); and Odón de Buen (Energía, Tecnología y Educación), Green Building Background Paper 1: Green Building Energy Scenarios for 2030, Commission for Environmental Cooperation, March 13, 2008. http://www.cec.org/pubs_docs/documents/index.cfm?varlan=English&ID=2233
 The Zero Energy Homes (ZEH) initiative by the U.S. DOE Building America Program, the Net Zero-Energy homes EQuilibrium Initiative by Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation &, and the USGBC Cascadia Chapter’s Living Building Challenge
 Mark Pasini, Marbek Resource Consultants, personal communication with Sonja Persram, April 1, 2008
 Adelaar et al, op. cit. Details from Mark Pasini, Marbek Resource Consultants, personal communication April 1, 2008