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Riddle Me This: The 2030 Challenge Design Awards

18 November 2011 | Posted By Jeff Cole 5,614 views No Comment

What do you get when you combine the Portland AIA Design Awards, the Portland AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE), NEEA’s BetterBricks initiative, and the Architecture 2030 Challenge? Why, the 2030 Challenge Design Awards, of course! Presented November 10th at the Portland AIA COTE Green Champion Summit, by Vincent Martinez, the Director of Research for 2030 Inc/Architecture 2030, the awards recognized:





This is the second year that the unique awards, jointly developed by Architecture 2030 and AIA Portland COTE, recognized design excellence among projects striving to achieve the reduction targets of the 2030 Challenge. These winners were selected from among candidate projects for the AIA Portland 2011 Design Awards, which documented compliance with the 2010 Architecture 2030 threshold of 60 percent less energy use than a typical building of the same size and type. All candidate projects for the Portland AIA Design Awards were required to calculate and submit both project reductions in energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions from operations, compared to a baseline building. Joshua Hatch, a Brightworks Sustainability Advisor, and Chair of the Portland COTE Building Climate Impact Committee, explained the gestation of the awards.

“The AIA Portland Design Awards have a long history and an award for sustainability has been presented for many years. Four years ago, when Ed Mazria was in town to present the 2030 Challenge, AIA Portland committed substantial organizational support. In collaboration with BetterBricks, the chapter offers diverse educational workshops and classes about the 2030 Challenge, measurement and verification, and energy modeling; and is the first chapter, nationally, to integrate the 2030 Challenge into our design awards. Four years ago, as part of the Design Awards process, the AIA asked projects to voluntarily submit calculations of energy savings and emissions reductions associated with each project. Three years ago these submissions became mandatory.

“We initially thought that within five years we might be able to have all projects competing for a Design Award in compliance with 2030 Challenge goals. We were overly optimistic. While we have great projects every year, with many achieving 2030 targets, some even achieving net zero energy goals, setting 2030 targets as a required threshold for the Design Awards has not been possible. So we have collaborated with Architecture 2030 to establish a separate award, which so far  is unique in the nation.”

All projects competing for AIA Portland Design Awards that demonstrate compliance with the 2030 Challenge energy targets are automatically eligible for a 2030 Challenge Design Award. According to Josh Hatch:

“The COTE Building Climate Impact Committee’s principal focus is the Design Awards. We developed and maintain the Building Climate Impact calculator that must be completed by all Award applicants, to document energy performance and emissions reductions, review submittals, coordinate the relationship with Architecture 2030 and BetterBricks, answer questions from local firms, assist with jury selection and help orient the jurors to the performance of projects in the competition

“This year we had a 95 percent participation rate in completing the required 2030 Challenge benchmarking calculations. [BB note: a modest number of projects were exempt from this requirement because they were unconditioned spaces, or for other reasons.] This year the submittals and calculations were more thorough, customized, and thoughtful than prior years–continuing a trend of increased building performance competency.”

“The average project reduction was 42 percent, for a grand total of 51,700 tons of CO2. There were many high performance projects, including some that were over 70, 80, or 90% reductions, including a net zero energy project. 51,700 tons of carbon is equivalent to taking 9,100 cars off the road or eliminating the emissions from 4,300 average Portland residents.”

While the 2030 jurors were clearly interested in energy performance and carbon reduction, they also looked for interesting challenges and how the teams developed energy efficient solutions. The awards are meant to recognize exceptional innovation, since all projects submitted to Architecture 2030 met the 2030 Challenge threshold reduction.

First Prize was awarded to the renovation of Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall, designed by Boora Architects. The 136,000 square foot project, with a predicted Energy Use Index (EUI) of 43 kBTU/sf-year, achieved energy savings of 63 percent when compared to an average US building of the same type and size.










Second Prize was awarded to Zimmer Gunsul Frasca for the Clif Bar & Co, headquarters, a 75,000 square foot retrofit of a former manufacturing facility. This project had a predicted EUI of 46.3 kBTU/sf-year, representing a 71 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from the average, equivalent building.








Zimmer Gunsul Frasca was also recognized with an Honorable Mention for the Port of Portland Headquarters. The office space in this 206,000 square foot project was predicted to use only 44 kBTU/sf-year, a 67 percent reduction in energy use over an average U.S. building of the same size and type.










The 2030 Challenge Design Awards are much more than a feel-good event, lessons learned by the firms striving to achieve the 2030 Challenge targets need to be widely disseminated. As Hatch points out, the carbon savings recognized by this small group of projects, while significant, are “only equivalent to 0.6% of the total City of Portland’s emissions or about one percent of the emissions from the Boardman plant.” In looking forward to the next few years of work promoting the 2030 Challenge, Hatch hopes that the collaborative efforts of Architecture 2030, AIA Portland, and AIA Portland COTE and BetterBricks will accomplish the following:

  • “Have teams consider energy and emissions earlier in the process. The more feedback that designers can give themselves over the course of design, the better.”
  • “There are more and more tools available to help designers, but energy models were developed for only 50 percent of candidate projects, roughly the same that the national AIA found from reporting firms for the AIA 2030 Committment. More firms need to take advantage of these resources,
  • “A greater percentage of this year’s projects are built projects, but there has been no increase in the number of projects that submitted actual data. Designers need to talk with clients about the performance of their buildings and to maintain a more active role after building hand over, to understand performance.
  • “Increase the percent of projects that meet the 2030 targets. There was a drop of compliant projects this year, as the 2030 Challenge threshold was raised. We all need to remain diligent.
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