Ten years ago, architect Edward Mazria founded Architecture 2030, a nonprofit organization with a mission to rapidly transform the U.S. and global building industry from a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution to climate change. By 2006, the 2030 target of 50% energy reduction was included in LEED certification, and Architecture 2030 formally launched the 2030 Challenge to the construction industry. In May of the same year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted the 2030 Challenge, and a few cities—Santa Fe, N.M., and Santa Barbara, Calif., among the first—began to adopt the challenge and write local zoning and building ordinances designed to achieve Challenge goals by 2030.

In an effort to help other cities follow suit, Architecture 2030 undertook a systematic study of model codes to determine what changes were required to meet scientists’ timeline for climate change, suggesting significant progress would come immediately by updating existing building codes and standards for new and renovated buildings.

It was 2008, and the baseline for evaluating progress toward meeting the targets consisted of the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) for commercial buildings and the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) for residential buildings. The document produced by Architecture 2030, published in 2009 and titled "Meeting the 2030 Challenge Through Building Codes ," remains informative and relevant today.

  • Credit: Chester Hawkins

Table A includes the most commonly used energy codes and standards and rating systems. This table provides the additional reductions needed beyond the requirements of a particular code to meet or exceed the initial 50% reduction target of the 2030 Challenge.

By way of comparison, fast-forward to 2012, and “the IECC, for example, has undergone two iterations since then, each with approximately 15% gains (on commercial and residential). Proposed changes to Title 24, Part 6, are on the order of 30% improvements for 2013,” explains Jeremy Sigmon, manager of Building Codes Advocacy at the USGBC, meaning we have already come about halfway in the IECC and will be ahead of schedule in California, if the proposed improvements for 2013 are approved.

As an example of how municipal code modifications can help cities meet the 2030 Challenge, “Meeting the 2030 Challenge Through Building Codes” refers to the city of Santa Barbara, which became the first city to adopt the 2030 Challenge and then the Architecture 2030 Energy Ordinance, officially incorporating the 2030 Challenge into their building energy code. The Ordinance was approved by the California Energy Commission in October 2007 and has served as a model for other California communities since. To date, 15 California cities have followed suit.

The basic standards for Santa Barbara were summed up in the application as follows:

(a) Single-family houses and residential additions greater than 100 square feet consume at least 20% less TDV energy than the energy use permitted by the 2005 standards;

(b) High-rise residential buildings (i.e., four-story or higher residential apartments) and additions to those buildings which are greater than 500 square feet consume at least 15% less TDV energy than the energy use permitted by the 2005 standards;

(c) Nonresidential indoor lighting be at least 10% below the allowed LPD permitted by the 2005 standards (with display lighting exempted);

(d) Nonresidential buildings and additions to those buildings that are greater than 500 square feet consume at least 10% less TDV energy than the energy use permitted by the 2005 standards.

More recently, in January 2011, the city of Santa Barbara decided to again update its energy code to standards exceeding the current state requirements. Although the city has not yet petitioned state authorities, they have concluded a cost-effectiveness study required by the California Energy Commission as part of the ordinance review documentation package. Once Santa Barbara gains approval, they will have an even more ambitious energy code that continues paving the road toward becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2030.