March 2012

Volume 21, Number 3

Get the PDF

By downloading this digital content, you agree to BuildingGreen’s terms and conditions of use.

2030 Carbon Targets May Be Within Reach

Printer-friendly versionSend to friend

U.S. Residential and Commercial Energy Consumption


The Annual Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows progressively lower energy consumption predictions. 2011 projections are the most recent.

Source: Architecture 2030

By Erin Weaver

Architecture 2030 says new energy projections from the federal government show the building sector is on its way to achieving long-term goals in energy and carbon reductions.

The organization’s 2030 Challenge asks architectural firms to meet progressively rising standards in building energy use and emissions, with the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued a report last year showing projects in 2010 achieving energy use reductions of only 35%, discouragingly far from the year’s target of 60%. (The report also suffered from a lack of data, making the results difficult to interpret. See “Despite Efforts, Many AIA Firms Fail to Meet Their 2030 Commitment,” EBN May 2011.)

New projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) are more encouraging. Architecture 2030’s triumphant report on the new federal numbers says, “Improved building design and efficiency has put the 2030 Challenge energy reduction target within reach.”

EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) predicts, among other things, the total energy use of residential and commercial buildings; that section of the AEO has been lower each year, with 2011 projections nearly 70% below estimates reached in 2005. This is due in part to revised projections about new construction rates: the 2005 AEO predicted that total U.S. building floor area would grow by more than half by 2030, with energy consumption rising by 44.4% and CO2 emissions by 53.1%. But with total floor area projected to grow by only 38.6% and greater efficiency taken into account, those numbers have plummeted to 13.7% and 4.6% respectively, a drop in projected energy consumption amounting to a difference of 21.3 quadrillion Btu (QBtu). Architecture 2030 predicts that energy use for the building sector would actually decrease by 2030 if “best available technology” were used—with projected energy consumption at –9.2% and CO2 emissions at –16.5% compared with 2005.

These promising results have led the organization to declare a redoubling of its efforts, including promotion of advanced building energy codes.

For more information:

Architecture 2030

Comments (2)

1 But is this really good news? posted by David Bryan on 03/28/2012 at 08:55 am

From this graph it appears that by 2030 the building sector's energy consumption will be somewhere between 10% more than 2005 to 10% less than 2005 if "best available technology" is employed. Yet the IPCC tells us that to avoid greater than 2 deg. C. warming by 2050, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% relative to 1990 levels. Using energy consumption as a proxy for GHG emissions, if the reduction path were a straight line from 2005, we would need to reduce emissions by about 45% by 2030. The AEO graph's best case is only 10%. According to McKinsey, the building sector offers the most cost effective opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so the building sector should be leading emissions reductions. Of course emission reductions will come from a transition to cleaner energy as well as from reduced consumption, so in order to tell if this graph is good news or not, we need to see a projection of the combined effects of energy conservation and a realistic projection of future energy sources. Perhaps Architecture 2030 could provide that.

2 Energy consumption and emissi posted by Erin Weaver on 03/28/2012 at 10:46 am

David, that's a good point. Architecture 2030 does address the issue on its website - - by emphasizing the importance of phasing out conventional coal-fired power plants. The group points out that 'there are two sides to the energy issue “supply and demand”. In order to effectively address the phase-out of conventional coal-fired power plants by 2030, we must reduce the demand for electricity from these plants...The key to retiring these plants by 2030, and insuring that no new conventional coal plants are built, lies in implementing the 2030 Challenge.' It's certainly a complex problem, with solutions on many fronts needing to happen simultaneously.

Post new comment

Welcome !
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Glossary terms will be automatically marked with links to their descriptions. If there are certain phrases or sections of text that should be excluded from glossary marking and linking, use the special markup, [no-glossary] ... [/no-glossary]. Additionally, these HTML elements will not be scanned: a, abbr, acronym, code, pre.

More information about formatting options

February 28, 2012