Building Owners Embrace Sharing Economy with 2030 Districts


We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the “sharing economy,” in which communities pool resources to save money and lighten their environmental footprint. Now the sharing economy is scaling up, with 2030 Districts in various cities working together to conserve energy and water and to jointly achieve carbon goals. The program has promise not only for building owners but also for architects striving to meet their 2030 Challenge commitments.

“What’s unique about our group is that we’re actually benchmarking and tracking in the aggregate,” says Brian Geller, founder and executive director of the Seattle 2030 District, which currently includes 25 million square feet of building space (a little over a quarter of the building space located within the physical confines of the district). “We’re going to share all data and share best practices and challenges. As a group, we’re going to reach these goals.” The district aims to function as a high-performance unit through projects like district heating, cooling, heat recovery, and renewable power generation.

Using Building Dashboard software developed by Lucid, the district has also become the largest group of buildings to release real-time building energy and water data to the public. In the process, they have discovered that many existing buildings—and not always the newer ones—are already performing quite well. “A lot of the really large Class A buildings are reaching the goal, but the smaller ones aren’t,” said Geller. “My vision of success would be in ten years if they came to me and said these goals are too soft.”

For existing buildings and infrastructure, the goals are a 50% reduction in energy use, water use, and transportation-related carbon emissions by 2030. New construction targets are more demanding: an immediate 60% reduction in energy use and an immediate 50% reduction in water use and transportation-related carbon. Seattle has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.

Geller hopes the effort will help architecture firms participating in the 2030 Challenge, in part by “making clients more open to releasing data.” In the past, the necessary data tracking has been a challenge all its own (see “Despite Efforts, Many AIA Firms Fail to Meet Their 2030 Commitment,”EBN May 2011). “The more transparency we bring into the marketplace, the better,” Geller adds.

There are now 2030 districts in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and “we’re talking to at least half a dozen other cities interested in trying out the same model,” Geller said. “It was designed to be replicable from the beginning,” While the public sector—including the City of Seattle and the federal General Services Administration—is involved in Seattle 2030 as property owners, the overall effort is market-driven. “The private sector keeps it market-relevant and very nimble,” he said. “The public sector is very financially constrained. This is the right model at the right time.”