Green building isn’t a passing fad. In fact, green building is a megatrend that’s quickly becoming a mainstay of building construction and design globally. With that said, why exactly are so many builders and owners looking to incorporate green design ideas and measures into your buildings and facilities?
In this two-part article, we will discuss the external trends driving the future of green buildings and explore the major shifts builders have noticed in green projects today.
1. Energy Efficiency
A primary megatrend impacting the world of green building lies in the push for energy efficient buildings to be retrofitted to align with green initiatives. This trend is more relevant in the commercial, corporate, and municipal, university, school and hospital (MUSH) markets.
Surprisingly, building retrofitting is growing faster than energy-efficient new construction projects. The reason for this lies in government funding and other incentives to upgrade and modernize physical plants in the MUSH market. As a result, absolute building performance with lower operating costs will continue to be a focus of green building. To truly benefit stakeholders and make buildings more eco-friendly, when certifying existing buildings, contractors should also attempt to take advantage of the ways that efficiency is concentrated by launching a rating system.
Zero-net-energy capable buildings are becoming more and more popular. To be considered zero net energy, the building’s energy consumption in a year must be roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on location on an annual basis.
This megatrend has been rising over the last decade, and in a competitive market, commercial and residential builders have been searching for a way to differentiate their portfolios. One way to do this is by integrating ZNE into their builds, or by creating low-energy buildings that are net-zero energy capable.
3. Big Data and Cloud Computing
“Big Data” is as much a buzzword as “green energy,” but is also likewise as revolutionary. Now, big data and cloud computing enable building owners and other companies to manage their building’s efficiencies remotely via integrated platforms. Owners can monitor the performance of their buildings, manage their energy management portfolios and send messages, reports and other analytics to key property stakeholders.
The manifestation of this megatrend is reflected in new technologies such as smart sensors, building automation, and other facility management systems that are on the market today to increase energy efficiency remotely. As technology continues to advance, this trend will become even more commonplace.
4. Solar Power
As the government continues to weigh in on energy conservation, states will continue to adopt and implement aggressive renewable portfolio standards (RPS), making solar power an ever-growing part of green initiatives. Financing solar energy systems is generally easier to come by, especially with low-interest rates in the U.S. and programs are being established to pay building owners for the surplus electricity produced by panels.
Of all the megatrends, solar power is the primary trend poised to significantly change the way buildings are designed, built and operated within the next decade. Solar electricity is likely to be as big of an energy player as traditional systems within the next half-decade, with a majority of the share going to rooftop and decentralized systems.
5. Water Conservation
With the fresh water supply reaching critical levels due to climate change affecting rainfall and water supply systems worldwide, water conservation is being emphasized globally. Fears of future droughts impacting supply and costs are prompting building designers, contractors, and owners to reduce their overall water consumption.
Builders are tasked with finding innovative ways to reduce on-site water utilization during construction beyond. This trend is manifested in the utilization of fixtures to conserve water, rainwater, and graywater recovery systems and by using native and adaptive vegetation in place of lawns. As multi-year droughts plague areas of the U.S., it will be more important than ever for builders to adopt water conservation techniques that will offer a long-lasting impact for homeowners in the future.
There are several elements at play which make green building a practical, cost-effective option for builders today. Energy efficient materials and components offer builders and buyers tangible solutions to save money and natural resources over time.
Builders that adopt a whole-house approach towards green building will offer buyers optimal savings in the long run. As the impact of climate change continues to be a reality across the globe, it’s important for builders to adopt green initiatives in their design and construction plans to not only preserve their buyer’s wallet but to also preserve this planet’s natural resources.
In part two of this article, we will continue to explore how going green is changing home design, function and requests for builders, and how buyers can benefit from green living in areas other than financially.