I started writing this blog just over four years ago on a dare. I accepted a challenge, and my part of the bargain was to write regularly about my design firm, Bergmeyer, and our adoption of the AIA 2030 Commitment. Seventy-two posts later, I’m still volunteering for big, hairy, audacious challenges. Still haven’t learned.

The challenge I’m writing about today is a bigger but related one. I’m setting sustainable design performance goals for Bergmeyer, and using the AIA 2030 Commitment to help. Allow me to elaborate.

We believe we are walking the sustainable design walk. We have many LEED Certified projects in our firm’s portfolio. Since we signed the AIA 2030 Commitment, we have written and updated our Sustainability Action Plan and have completed our fourth year of project energy use reporting.

But yet, year to year, our energy use metrics have not significantly improved. So a little while ago, we had the Sustainable Performance Institute in to do an assessment of our approach. Executive Director Barbra Batshalom took a deep-dive into our design process. She left us – as expected – with good news and bad news. The good news was the unusual degree to which our firm’s leadership and staff are committed to sustainable design. What needed improvement, she said, was our “project delivery methodologies.”

We were unsure of how to tackle that one, so Barbra advised us to create SMART goals. I immediately grabbed my shoe phone to call the Chief back at CONTROL headquarters.

Just kidding.

You may know that SMART is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused* and Time-bound. SMART goals are objective success measures that – if applied and observed rigorously – can show whether an organization is continually improving or not. And for Bergmeyer, participation in the AIA 2030 Commitment is what will make our SMART goals possible.

One example of a SMART goal: Improve our use of Lighting Power Density.

We do a ton of interior design projects. Many of them don’t involve base building MEP systems, so the energy use metric we use is lighting power density or LPD. A goal for us would be to promote greater understanding and use of LPD by our design teams. We need to be able to calculate this ourselves and make design choices while in schematic to improve it. So a SMART goal would be: Have 50% of our interiors project teams using LPD in schematic design so our aggregated LPD in 2016 is 20% better than our 2015 number.

Specific? Improved use of LPD. Measurable? It’s against 50% of however many interiors projects we do in a year. Achievable? We don’t have a baseline yet, so we’re hoping it is. Results-focused? That aggregate annual AIA 2030 LPD number doesn’t lie. Time-bound? We report again in March of 2016.

Another example: Improve our firm-wide PEUI reduction.

This might be a tougher one than LPD reduction. We only model about 50% of the whole building projects we do. But since some of our work is multi-site implementation of a building we design once (a prototype), if we model and improve a prototype that would affect more of our whole buildings. We just finished report on energy use payback analysis for big-box retail stores to help us make the business case for this approach. So a SMART goal for us would be: improve our 2016 firm-wide whole-building PEUI reduction to 40% below average.

Specific? PEUI reduction. Measurable? Target is 40% below average. Achievable? We were at 25% reduction last year (missed it by that much) so it’s also a stretch. Results-focused? We’ll all be looking at that 2016 AIA 2030 summary together. Time-bound: Same deadline as above.

Possible? Would you believe . . .? With the tools and support of the AIA 2030 Commitment, it is.

(* There are many different versions of the “R” goal. Besides Results-oriented, others are Relevant, Realistic [which changes the “A” from Achievable to Assignable], Resourced, and etc. And there are some counter-arguments here.)

This post is part of an ongoing series from Principal Mike Davis, FAIA on our progress toward the AIA 2030 Commitment.

Published Oct 13, 2015