AIA Chicago 2030 Commitment Update


The AIA 2030 Commitment

The Chicago Campaign to Combat the Climate Emergency

By: Douglas Farr, FAIA, 2030 Campaign Strategist, Arathi Gowda, AIA, and Scott Farbman, AIA, AIA Chicago 2030 Working Group co-chairs and Nathan Kipnis, FAIA, 2030 National Liaison

Every day there are reports on our current climate emergency—from fires in Australia to record high temperatures and flooding closer to home—reminding us of our urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels and pumping CO2 (and its equivalents) into the atmosphere. With 53% of Chicago’s CO2e generated by residential and commercial/industrial buildings (71% if including manufacturing industries and construction), architects have a duty to lead climate change mitigation efforts locally.1 The AIA 2030 Commitment is the architecture profession’s leading platform for tackling this emergency and ridding our economy of carbon dependency, and AIA Chicago area member firms are stepping up.

Last year Chicago architects made history by pledging in record numbers to track and report the modeled energy use (pEUI) of their projects under the AIA 2030 Commitment. Based on AIA National data, in 2019 a total of 102 firms with Chicago-area offices pledged to track and report the energy used on their projects. This is up from 62 AIA 2030 Committed firms at the end of 2018, a meteoric annual growth rate of 65%! Firms with Chicago area offices made up nearly one-sixth of all 2030 Committed firms nationally. Ten years ago, Chicago architects helped to organize the 2030 program nationally and ten years later we’re leading the nation in commitment!

The number of Chicago area firms that pledge to join the AIA 2030 Commitment will continue to grow as more smaller firms join. The explosive growth in 2019 was in part due to a new requirement that firms submitting to AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards be 2030 Committed. It should come as no surprise that of the medium to large Chicago firms that dominate the awards (40+ architects), virtually all are 2030 Committed. This same requirement will apply to the Small Project Awards starting in 2021. Based on this experience, the ranks of smaller firms that are AIA 2030 Committed will grow in the next two years.

Despite this progress, there are challenges:: Approximately 45% of the Chicago-area firms that are 2030 Committed are taking the next step to report their performance data (which relies heavily on energy modeling.) This is especially troubling because research shows that firms that do not use energy models during the design process do not show improvement in the energy efficiency of their designs. (Nationally, 60-70% of projects submitted to the DDx platform rely on energy models.)

Introducing the AIA Chicago 2030 Badge

In early April 2020, the AIA Chicago 2030 Working Group is rolling out a new strategy to recognize firms that report their energy data. It is called the AIA Chicago 2030 Badge (see Image #3). The badge will be available to firms which report their data before the March 31st, 2020 cutoff and will be distributed prior to Earth Day: April 22, 2020. Firms can use the digital badge in their marketing materials and website through its expiration date on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. To incentivize firms to report their data year after year, the following year’s badge will be provided prior to the expiration date each year, allowing for a continuous “seal of approval.”

The illustration below arrays the color spectrum for the annual AIA 2030 Badges.

Marketplace Distinction

The AIA Chicago 2030 Badge can be thought of as a third-party verification of a firm’s professional commitment to sustainability. In this time of environmental crisis when architectural clients are searching for ways to make real progress on climate, the badge should confer a marketplace distinction for those who display it..

Goal to Get 100% of AIA 2030 Committed Firms to Report Their Data in 2020

Experience shows that firms that have reported data once tend to stick with it and build reporting into their business operations. To spur a jump in data reporting, the AIA Chicago COTE Working Group has set the goal of getting 100% of all Committed firms to report their data in 2020.

It Takes a Village

The strategy to achieve the 100% reporting goal relies on “a little help from our friends.” Have a look at the list and consider sending a ‘thank-you’ note to those committed and reporting firms. . If your firm is Committed and reporting, please reach out to a Committed firm that is not reporting and offer to help. If you are familiar with a firm that is not on the list at all and should be, please reach out. Only by working together can we change the profession.

Helpful Resources

We are here to help! AIA is facilitating an “Open Office Hours” webinar series every other Thursday going through April 9th. These hour-long sessions include a 20-minute expert presentation followed by a 40-minute open format reserved for you to ask you most pressing 2030 and DDx questions. You can register at and also see other 2030 resources at

The AIA Chicago 2030 Working Group will be hosting a DDx Study Hall on February 26, 2020. The expertise of this working group will be available to anyone who needs it, in order to assist in the submission of portfolio data to the DDx by the March 31st, 2020 deadline.

In addition to the Study Hall, the AIA Chicago 2030 Working Group has created a Slack channel for real-time discussion of any topic as it relates to the 2030 Commitment, the DDx, sustainability, and the design industry. Reach out to AIA Chicago or either committee Co-Chair (Scott Farbman, Arathi Gowda) to get invited. Get involved today!