March 1, 2010
5 Green Building Trends to Watch
2009 was a tough year for the building industry. Yet green building has been a rare bright spot, according to a new report. Engineers and architects may want to take note of the following emerging trends.
During the first 11 months of the year, construction spending in the United States amounted to $868.9 billion, 12.7 percent below spending in the same period in 2008. The dismal housing market had a rippling effect that affected not only homebuilders, but also cement companies, truck manufacturers and thousands of small businesses that cater to contractors and construction firms.
Yet the dismal housing industry has not diminished the interest in energy-efficient and environmentally-sensitive homes.
In fact, green building has been a rare bright spot, particularly in Northwest design and building communities, according to the nonprofit Earth Advantage Institute.
Sustainable techniques, once considered something of a luxury, have become a value-adding aspect to building. The process begins with the selection of materials, the use of natural light and space, proper insulation, flooring and responsible techniques for disposing of waste.
The Earth Advantage Institute developed its predictions for 2010 green building trends based on discussions with builders, architects, real estate brokers, appraisers, lenders and homeowners late in 2009. Engineers and architects should take note of these emerging green-building trends, excerpted from the Earth Advantage Institute’s new Top 10 Green Building Trends to Watch in 2010 report:
Smart Grid-Connected Homes — While the concept of a “smart grid” is gaining traction in the utilities sector, the development of custom and Web-based display panels that show real-time home energy use, and even real-time energy use broken out by individual appliance, could significantly help change homeowners’ energy usage and drive energy conservation.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) Software — In building design, CAD software is providing new tools and better accuracy for energy modeling, as well as embedded energy properties for many materials and features. Sophisticated users of BIM, which can be used for all phases of the work, are creating significant efficiencies in the documentation process and have even been able to eliminate the need for shop drawings during construction, according to DesignIntelligence. BIM developers may soon be offering more affordable packages aimed at smaller firms and individual builders.
Water Conservation — Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the WaterSense specification for new homes to reduce their residential water use indoors and outdoors. WaterSense-labeled new homes are expected to be 20 percent more efficient than conventional homes. U.S. performance scores may soon incorporate mandatory energy labeling like the kind that documents water efficiency in buildings in Europe. Water will be the essential resource in the next decade.
Carbon Calculation — Progressive elements within the building industry are looking at ways to document, measure and reduce greenhouse-gas creation in building materials and processes. Lifecycle assessment (LCA), the science of measuring the environmental effects of a building “from cradle to grave,” is underway by third-party technical teams, while others are working with federal and state building authorities to educate staff, create monetized carbon credits and develop effective carbon offset policies.
Net-Zero Buildings — Net-zero buildings generate more energy than they use over the course of a year, as a result of size, efficiencies and energy sources. The American Institute of Architects‘ Architecture 2030 Challenge sets carbon-neutrality as the goal for all buildings in 2030. According to Earth Advantage, that goal is within reach: “Building extreme efficiency into a structure is highly cost effective, and achieves the bulk of the net-zero effort.”
For architects and engineers, the decision to build green is still a challenging one to make, as they want to know more about the features and economic benefits of sustainable construction, Residential Architect Online recently acknowledged. This way, they can place an appropriate value on a green building.
A November 2009 study from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Booz Allen Hamilton estimates that green building will add $554 billion to the U.S. economy over the next four years (2009-2013). Green-construction spending currently supports more than 2 million American jobs and generates more than $100 billion in gross domestic product and wages.
The study also found that the USGBC’s more than 19,000 member organizations generate $2.6 trillion in annual revenue, employ approximately 14 million people, come from 29 industry sectors and include 46 Fortune 100 companies.
“In many ways, green construction is becoming the standard for development,” Booz Allen Hamilton’s Gary Rahl said in a statement. “As a result, it is expected to support nearly 8 million jobs over the next five years, a number four times higher than the previous five years.”
“Despite the severe economic contraction of the A/E/C [architect/engineer/contractor] market,” DesignIntelligence said earlier this month, “designing projects for a LEED rating or comparable standard is allowing firms to enhance their sustainability offerings and providing a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy landscape.”
U.S. Census Bureau, Jan. 4, 2010
by Melanie Speed
ConstructionTrends.com, April 30, 2009
U.S. Green Building Council and Booz Allen Hamilton, Nov. 11, 2009
by Sean Penrith
Earth Advantage Institute, Jan. 5, 2010
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Dec. 10, 2009
by S. Claire Conroy
Residential Architect, Dec. 1, 2009
DesignIntelligence, Jan. 11, 2010
by James P. Cramer and Jane Gaboury
DesignIntelligence, January/February 2010