2030 Districts’ market advantages aren’t limited to Rust Belt cities like Cleveland, says Vision 2020 chair John Norquist.
2030 Districts’ market advantages aren’t limited to Rust Belt cities like Cleveland, says Vision 2020 chair John Norquist.

Rust Belt cities seeking to reemerge from their post-industrial ashes have a new tool for reinvention: the 2030 District. Arising from Architecture 2030 goals established by the 2030 Challenge for Planning, 2030 Districts forge community partnerships to achieve carbon reduction, energy efficiency, and water savings targets. 

Cleveland and Pittsburgh are two of four cities nationally enlisted as 2030 Districts. Don Rerko, AIA, chairman of Cleveland’s 2030 District, has a hard or soft commitment from nearly one-third of property owners in the district that covers almost 70 million square feet of downtown space. Public entities controlled the largest square footage so the effort started there. “Now, we’re shifting our focus to engage more private companies,” Rerko says. “Once we can prove it’s working, we have a five-phase plan for expansion to grow it into a county initiative.”  

Cleveland’s emphasis began with a minimum of 10 percent in energy reduction below the national average by 2015 for existing buildings. “Our goal is quantifiable data-driven metrics so property owners can monitor to achieve savings and become more competitive in the marketplace,” Rerko says. “Our committee helps identify options tailored to each property owner’s situation, and we look for ways to pay for improvements out of existing energy cost savings for optimal payback.”

Aurora Sharrard, vice president of innovation at Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance (GBA) says that Pittsburgh’s 2030 District has found that energy is often a good entry point to involve property owners because it’s something they can control. “In addition, clear incremental goals, a physical boundary that pulls us together as a community, and the three-pronged aspect of energy, water, and transportation holds appeal to prospective partners,” Sharrard says. “Urban transportation and a potential combine stormwater and sewer overflow system are big issues in Pittsburgh, so the goals resonate with a variety of property owners.”

Over 30 organizations offer education, tools, and community resources, and property owners share their stories on recently implemented improvements–from finding financing sources to how the systems are working–to help others build confidence and capacity. Pittsburgh is also pioneering an indoor air quality (IAQ) goal for the 2030 Challenge with the hope that 2030 Districts will adopt it. “2030 Districts very much reflect the place where they’re hosted,” Sharrard says. “I think they’ll find their own shape all across the nation.”

John Norquist, Vision 2020’s sustainable communities chair, says that 2030 Districts’ market advantages of tangible savings and enhanced image aren’t limited to Rust Belt cities. “It’s a great option for any city trying to change its image,” he says. “You’ll see 2030 Districts crop up anywhere people are serious about presenting themselves as green in the marketplace.”

Read more on the Pittsburgh 2030 District in ECOHOME’s recent coverage here, and find links to each 2030 District here.

Building on its successful launch in 2012, ECOHOME’s Vision 2020 program continues in 2013, focusing on eight critical areas in sustainability. Track our progress all year (ecobuildingpulse.com/Vision-2020) as our panel of visionary focus-area chairs, our editors, and leading researchers, practitioners, and advocates share their perspectives on initiating, tracking, and ensuring progress toward sustainable priorities and goals in residential construction between now and 2020. The program will culminate in an exclusive Vision 2020 Forum in Washington, D.C., in September 2013, and with a special edition of ECOHOME in Winter 2013. Click here to see the 2012 Wrap-Up.