The ZERO Code applies to all new buildings and major renovations and includes guidelines for incorporating this standard into advanced building energy codes, reach codes, and incentives. Achieving Zero is structured to deliver energy and emissions reductions and the rapid expansion of local renewable energy systems while supporting the development of equitable, thriving, and resilient communities.
Achieving zero emissions from new construction will require building materials that have low to zero embodied carbon emissions and, if possible, sequester carbon. Addressing embodied carbon emissions begins with the development and publication of material specifications and policies.
The Achieving Zero framework reflects Architecture 2030’s work with governments and cities, as urban areas are critical to phasing out CO2 emissions in the built environment by 2040.
The genesis of the Achieving Zero program was a 2014 report produced by Architecture 2030 entitled Roadmap to Zero Emissions, which contained a blueprint for mitigating building sector emissions prepared for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Paris in 2015. Through building emissions reduction research and opportunities, three key indicators emerged:
- By mid-century total world population is expected to increase by about 2.7 billion people. At the same time, world urban population is expected to increase by 2.8 billion people, or the equivalent of adding 1.5 million people to our cities worldwide every week.
- Cities are responsible for over 70 percent of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions, mostly from buildings, providing a significant opportunity to focus climate change mitigation efforts within dense urban environments.
- While many cities have made public commitments for carbon emissions reduction – such as an 80% reduction by 2050 (80×50) – few have a detailed plans for meeting their commitments, nor are they connecting carbon reduction solutions in the built environment with those that address their other pressing concerns around adaptability, resiliency, and equity.
In 2015, Architecture 2030 partnered with New York City (NYC), Working Families, and ALIGN New York to analyze the city’s building stock and outline policy actions to meet an 80% carbon emissions reduction by 2050. In a report entitled Achieving 80×50, Architecture 2030 provided a framework for NYC incremental code updates and efficiency programs to reduce building emissions and stimulate local construction and carbon free renewable energy markets.
Since then, Architecture 2030 has developed Achieving Zero as a standardized and integrated policy framework designed to integrate a process for discovery, strategy development, and implementation that applies to cities worldwide. Recognizing that for a 67% chance of meeting the 1.5 degC Paris Agreement target, the total carbon budget is 340 GtCO2, Architecture 2030 has refocused on the an ambitious and necessary emissions reduction timeline: a 50% to 65% CO2 emissions reduction by 2030 and zero CO2 emissions by 2040.
Architecture 2030 is currently working with eleven U.S. cities to implement elements of the Achieving Zero framework through the Zero Cities Project.