Zero Cities Project

The Zero Cities Project was developed in 2017 as a project to help cities develop actionable and equitable roadmaps and strategies to achieve a zero net carbon building sector by 2050. Through the Zero Cities Project, eleven leading cities explored cutting edge advancements in community partnership and high-performance buildings. The project will conclude in 2020, and this page will be updated with additional resources, case studies and videos featuring the work of cities and their community partners throughout the fall and summer of 2020.

To ensure the solutions identified through this project were actionable, Zero Cities Project partners provided a combination of technical analysis of potential strategies and metrics, community-based planning to ensure solutions advance equity and community priorities, and communications assistance to help build community support for strategies.

 Project Partners

The Zero Cities Project was supported by many local and national partners that worked to advance the project’s goals across the country.

National Partners

  • Architecture 2030
  • Movement Strategy Center
  • New Buildings Institute
  • Race Forward
  • Resource Media
  • Urban Sustainability Directors Network

Local Teams

  • City of Boston
  • City of Boulder
  • City of Cambridge
  • City of Grand Rapids and Urban Core Collective (UCC)
  • City of Minneapolis and the Center for Energy Earth and Democracy (CEED)
  • New York City
  • City of Phoenix
  • City of Portland and Verde
  • City of San Francisco, Emerald Cities, and PODER
  • Washington D.C. and Empower
  • City of Seattle and a working group of neighborhood and community partners

National Tools

The Zero Cities Project developed a suite of local and national resources including:

Equity Assessment Tool 

The Equity Assessment Tool which outlines different metrics and approaches to examining the connection of racial equity and the built environment. The tool also provides guidance for cities to engage closely with community-based organizations in developing building policy. The Equity Assessment Tool is meant to be used in partnership with local communities. An addendum to the tool examining how COVID-19 impacts some of the metrics introduced in the tool will be available later in the summer. 


Ecosystem maps

Ecosystem maps were developed for each city to help identify the network of neighborhood and community organizations working on related or adjacent topics. This work was used to pair cities with anchor community partners who helped them implement localized workplans. Many of these collaborations are ongoing and will continue after the life of the project. These partnerships are listed in the local teams section above.

Building Stock Assessments

Building stock assessments were completed for each city assessing the use type, floor area, energy consumption, and emissions by fuel (e.g. electricity and natural gas) of each building in the city, and projecting what each city’s building stock might look like in 2050. These models helped the cities understand the energy and emissions characteristics of their building stock to better develop and prioritize decarbonization policies. A guide for how other jurisdictions can conduct similar building stock assessments is available on Architecture 2030’s Achieving Zero website.

View Data and Analysis                 View Building Stock Guide

Building Energy Codes Guidance

The project developed building energy codes guidance for 20% and 40% Stretch Codes, which cities can adopt at a local level or encourage adoption at the state level. The project also developed a codes roadmap to help plan pathways to net-zero energy. This work was used as the basis for several proposals in the 2021 IECC.

View Guidance for Stretch Codes                View Net-Zero Energy Roadmap

Building Intervention Points

Architecture 2030’s Achieving Zero website outlines a framework and provides tools for zero- carbon policy development for new construction, embodied carbon, and the existing buildings intervention points. For new construction, the framework focuses on the ZERO Code, which has recently been incorporated into the 2021 IECC Zero Code Renewable Energy Appendix. For existing buildings, Zero Cities Project work focused on identifying crucial intervention points for large and small buildings to make upgrades. The Achieving Zero website is being continually updated with new findings, research, tools, and policy precedents.

View Achieving Zero Website                 View ZERO CODE