In the new year, project teams committed to the 2030 Challenge are being asked to kick their performance goals up a notch. As of January 1, 2015, the energy performance target for new buildings, including major renovations, has increased from 60 percent below the regional average to 70 percent below the regional average.

For project teams looking to possibly commit to 2030 Challenge for the first time, the performance target may seem daunting, if not at least a bit unclear. What is the 70 percent reduction based on? Considering ever-increasing stringencies of energy codes, standards, and green building rating systems, a 70 percent improvement may initially feel like an unattainable goal.

Let's clear the air. While regionally-specific, the 2030 Challenge baseline is based on a database that was developed over a decade ago. According to Architecture 2030, the non-profit behind the 2030 Challenge, on May 4, 2007 the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Architecture 2030, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), supported by representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), agreed to define the baseline starting point for their common target goals as the national average/median energy consumption of existing U.S. commercial buildings, as reported by the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). 

The CBECS is akin to a national census of building performance. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) develops a frame—or list—of all commercial buildings in the country. The EIA surveys thousands of those buildings throughout the country using a validated methodology. These buildings constitute a statistical sample that is designed to represent all 4.9 million commercial buildings in the U.S. 

CBECS data can be used to determine a national energy use intensity (EUI) using kBtu/sq. ft.-yr as the metric. It is also important to point out that the 2030 Challenge refers to site EUI, not source EUI. The 2030 Challenge targets relate to the year of the project’s completion of design, not the year that the project begins initial design.

To help project teams determine the most appropriate target EUI, Architecture 2030 has compiled the 2030 Target Tables, using the CBECS 2003 data and similar EPA tables. Architecture 2030 has also partnered with developers of design performance modeling tools, such as Sefaira, to help project teams leverage the 2030 Challenge targets during the earliest stages of the design process in order to better achieve their energy performance goals.