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I have worked with energy and sustainability issues for building projects for the past eight years and have been intrigued by the interconnection between these individual buildings and other elements of the built environment (neighboring buildings, utilities, people, transportation, etc.).
The highest potential for energy and water savings occurs at this interconnection, yet building professionals typically do not get the opportunity to work on projects beyond the individual building scale. When Architecture 2030 launched “2030 Districts” a few years ago, I took notice, as it seemed like a great model for San Antonio to apply in a unique way.
[Read More: Architects: ‘No One Else Can Solve Climate Change’]
Over the past few months, a group of local architects, activists, and properties owners have formed a San Antonio 2030 District Exploratory Committee. San Antonio will be the first 2030 District to have a boundary that is linear; The boundary will follow the San Antonio River through downtown, stretching from Brackenridge Park in the north to Roosevelt Avenue in the south, and will cover most of downtown between I-10 and I-35.
Within these borders are many of the large downtown offices and hotels, the development at Pearl, UTSA’s downtown campus, and more than five million square feet of city-owned properties.
The first 2030 District was formed in Seattle in 2011, when a group of architects was inspired by tapping into the incredible potential to decrease energy consumption of existing buildings. 133 buildings totaling 28 million square feet have joined, which accounts for 37 percent of the square footage within the district boundary.
So far, the Seattle 2030 District has reduced its energy consumption by 21 percent, its water usage by 7 percent, and its transportation carbon emissions by 22 percent.
A 2030 District is a defined area in a city where member building owners are committed to the goal of reducing consumption of energy, water, and transportation emissions by 50 percent by year 2030. 2030 District members are encouraged to share their utility bills as well as proven strategies for improved building performance. As building owners begin to see improvement in their energy performance and a decrease in their utility bills, more buildings in the District will be encouraged to join.
The motivation behind sharing utility data is that people tend to have a fatalistic view of paying bills. That is, many of us receive a bill and pay it without giving much thought to the numbers. Once District members share consumption data, individual buildings can compare their own energy use against similar buildings in the immediate area and many will implement strategies to realize potential savings. At the same time, buildings that use less energy can disclose their best practices. Without this ability to compare, buildings might consume two or three times more than similar, nearby buildings and never know about the potential savings.
This district-scale approach to sustainability requires collaboration, leveraged financing, and shared resources through unique public/private partnerships. Property owners and managers can come together with local governments, businesses, and community stakeholders to create a business model for urban sustainability. Together, they can develop and implement creative strategies, best practices, and verification methods for measuring progress towards a common performance goal.
Three building owners and property managers (Zurich International Properties, Lake/Flato Architects, and The Brooklynite) have signed on so far, and San Antonio could become the sixth official 2030 District in the nation once two more property managers and/or owners sign up.
For the San Antonio 2030 District, property owners/managers will not be required to achieve the goals of the District by legislative mandates, or as individuals. Rather, adopters will achieve the San Antonio 2030 District goals as a collective group of property owners, property managers, and developers because full participation in the District brings collaboration, shared resources, and financing options that will make high-performance buildings the most profitable building type in San Antonio. There are no fees for San Antonio 2030 District membership at this time.
Adopters support the goals of the San Antonio 2030 District, which are to meet the following performance goals on a district-wide scale:
Existing buildings and infrastructure operations:
- Energy use: A minimum 10 percent reduction below the national average by 2015, with incremental targets, reaching a 50 percent reduction by 2030.
- Water use: A minimum 10 percent reduction below the national average by 2015, with incremental targets, reaching a 50 percent reduction by 2030.
- CO2 of auto and freight: A minimum 10 percent reduction below the current District average by 2015 with incremental targets, reaching a 50 percent reduction by 2030.
New buildings, major renovations, and new infrastructure:
- Energy use: An immediate 60 percent reduction below the national average, with incremental targets, reaching carbon neutral by 2030.
- Water use: An immediate 50 percent reduction below the current national average.
- CO2 of auto and freight: An immediate 50 percent reduction below the current District average.
- The San Antonio 2030 District also supports sustainable land use and management practices and low impact development to protect water and air quality throughout the District boundary.
The San Antonio 2030 District is in the process of developing tools which will be available to property owners, property managers, or developers who become adopters:
- Operational cost savings: The primary direct benefit of making progress toward the District goals.
- ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager: Assistance with account setup and initial upload of utility data, and ongoing Portfolio Manager training as required.
- Initial benchmarking: Confidential analysis on building performance data in relation to District goals as well as similar building types within the District and nationwide.
- Preliminary assessment: Breakdown of cost and resulting savings of efficiency strategies to meet District goals.
- Access to and guidance for financing opportunities: Information on utility incentives, tax incentives, available financing options (such as ESCO, PACE, performance contracting, etc. as well as traditional mechanisms), and connection to professional partners in the energy retrofit finance sector.
- Founding adopters: The first ten adopters in the San Antonio 2030 District will be highlighted as founding adopters on the San Antonio 2030 District website and may use this designation for marketing purposes.
- Forum discussions: Informal and formal gatherings will be organized to provide adopters the opportunity to share information and best practices.
In exchange for adopter benefits, adopters are asked to participate in the development of the District in the following ways:
- Sharing of performance data: Confidential sharing of building energy use, water use, and transportation management plan data with the SA 2030 District Advisory Committee. Aggregate data about the District will be made publicly available but no individual building will be identified.
- Participation in Portfolio Manager: Use of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to track monthly energy use for each building.
- Lessons learned and case studies: Share insights in best practices, lessons learned, and case studies with the SA 2030 District Advisory Committee to help raise the level of performance across the District.
- Support for the SA2030 District Board of Directors (optional): Participation in District decision-making, evaluation of District membership criteria for property owners and stakeholders, mentorship for small/sole proprietor property owner and managers
We will host an informational launch party this Thursday at the American Institute of Architects San Antonio’s new offices at 1344 S Flores St. The event is free to the public, but the venue has limited space, so registration in advance is required. Please join us from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for some networking and a brief presentation on the San Antonio 2030 District and how you can participate. This is a landmark opportunity for San Antonio to take the national stage for its leadership in sustainability, as our approach will demonstrate the city’s unique culture of collaboration.
Heather Gayle Holdridge, LEED AP BD+C, EIT, Associate AIA is the Sustainability Manager at Lake/Flato Architects, a San Antonio-based design firm focused on timeless sustainable architecture that is rooted to its place. You can follow the firm’s blog at www.lakeflatodogrun.com. Heather is also a member of AIA San Antonio’s Committee on the Environment.