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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Burlington District 2030 Challenge

By Barbara Whitchurch

What is the 2030 Challenge (also known as the 2030 District Movement)? Well, the premise is actually quite simple. Buildings account for over 40% of the CO2 emissions and over 45% of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) created in the U.S. each year. (Urban environments emit 75% of GHGs globally.) Therefore, improving the efficiency of buildings will greatly help to mitigate the causes of climate change.

Specifically, the 2030 Challenge has divided the built environment into two major categories: (1) new buildings/major renovations, and (2) improvements to existing buildings. Both categories aim to reduce energy use and CO2 emissions incrementally, resulting in a 50% reduction in existing buildings, and carbon neutrality (over 90% reduction) in new buildings.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, in his State of the City address
on Monday, April 9, 2018, cited making Burlington a Net-Zero Energy
City by 2030 as his top priority. He added that all of the city’s energy
is already 100% renewable, but “more needs to be done in the areas of
heating and transportation to reach the goal by 2030.”

What are the “Districts?”

There are 17 established Districts nationwide, with more emerging. They have pledged to meet the 2030 Challenge by reducing building energy consumption, water use and transportation emissions by 50% by 2030.

The city of Burlington is the third smallest of the established Districts, established in 2017, but it is practically unique because it includes the entire city, whereas most of the other Districts are areas within a city. (Stamford, CT is the only other city-wide District, and Burlington was first.) Each District is a unique private/public partnership, including property owners/managers, local government entities, and business/community stakeholders, working together to create urban sustainability. Participation is completely voluntary. The Vermont Green Building Network (VGBN) became the District’s non-profit sponsor, and Burlington Electric Department (BED) and Vermont Gas signed on early. CX Associates, an engineering consulting firm, and VGBN were hired as the District’s management team. Property owners are included on the Steering Committee to facilitate shared goals and “buy in.” (For more information on forming a 2030 District, visit

How it Works

Like most established cities, Burlington has many inefficient buildings that need to be upgraded. Vermont’s cold climate accentuates that need. The District helps property owners increase their property value while reducing their operating costs. The approach is very practical and direct. Eric Morrow, an architect and the Chair of the Steering Committee, said, “We are trying to get them all to speak the same language.”

A team assists property owners and service providers in developing a Property Energy Plan (PEP) by analyzing the energy needs of the building and the opportunities for improvement. Owners are asked to commit to energy use reductions by setting incremental targets. Techniques include air sealing, replacing mechanicals, roof and window upgrades, etc. The process starts with a “walkthrough” involving BED or Vermont Gas and an interview with the property owner or manager. A baseline for energy usage and a target goal are established. Then a PEP is developed with the property owner/manager and the District Team. The team also has committees which are developing strategies to achieve energy, water (also known as “watergy”) and transportation goals. Medical institutions, educational institutions, the City of Burlington, service providers and utilities have also chosen to participate.

Where is the Burlington 2030 District today?

So far, 388 million square feet of property have been committed nationally. Thus far, 6 million square feet out of 40 million potential square feet of Burlington’s conditioned space have already been committed to this project. The University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care, both huge users of energy, have joined the Challenge. City Market is a new private partner!

On Tuesday, May 1, there will be a 2030 District Launch Event and celebration from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at Union Station in Burlington. More details will be available on at and on Twitter: @BTV2030.

Barbara Whitchurch owns a net-zero-energy passive house and is a board member of Vermont Passive House.

Many thanks to our sponsor:

BED Logo_Feb 2018_VN


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