Architects and builders all across America are always striking the balance between balancing their clients’ expectations and what is realistic on their budget. Competitive companies are going to adhere to international building codes, but are those guidelines always cost-effective in the long-term? In spite of growing green initiatives and energy-efficient building methods, many architects aren’t constructing sustainable buildings. The American Institute of Architects responded with a challenge.

The 2030 Commitment
Five years ago, the AIA established a national sustainability challenge called the 2030 Commitment. Architects who participate pledge to curtail their predicted energy use intensity by 60 percent, which would cut carbon emissions across the board. That’s a big deal since buildings are estimated to account for close to 40 percent of the earth’s carbon emissions, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The response is promising, but CityLab found there’s more to be done.

While many architects and firms have joined the cause, there are still a plethora of builders who don’t know and aren’t adopting the emerging energy-efficient tools and processes. But clients are also in the equation. More sustainable construction projects tend to feature a modeling program to account for energy efficiency. Problem is, not all clients can afford to do it, so this often gets minimized to save on short-term building costs, or is just ignored entirely. There needs to be more education on how energy efficiency is worth the investment since it’s going to lower costs in the long term. Fortunately, there are a few programs taking the lead on this.

A building can greatly reduce overall spending with smart, energy-efficient investments.A building can greatly reduce overall spending with smart, energy-efficient investments.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has a program called LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The goal of this program is to encourage builders to cut costs while helping the health of the occupants and reducing their carbon footprint along the way. Cities and companies are clamoring for LEED certification, as the global green market is projected to spend $960 billion on construction by 2023, Lux Research found. Sustainable building matters.

How US cities are responding
As cities across America incorporate more carbon regulations and renewable power becomes more affordable, buildings that take the energy-efficient route are going to be helping improve their bottom lines. Take Boston, for example. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found Boston to be the most sustainable city in the U.S. Because of their building sector initiatives, new large buildings in Boston most be in total compliance with LEED certification standards. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, has fared poorly. With no building sector initiatives to improve efficiency and a lack of stringency in building energy codes, Oklahoma City is doing little to cut down long-term energy costs.

On paper, Oklahoma City hasn’t broken any laws. They are doing just enough to adhere to federal mandates and they certainly aren’t doing wrong by state laws. But what they are doing is living by short-term codes. It might be an investment, but cities and architects that look beyond basic standards are developing faster and saving money.