6 Green Building Trends To Watch

Last Updated:
Thu, 2014-07-31 16:26

Green building practices help to ensure a sustainable future through the design and operation of buildings that facilitate both climate change mitigation and adaptation. The green building industry continues to grow, evolve, and change in response to changes in our environment and the changing needs of our communities.

1. Smart Building Technology & Performance

Design is typically not the problem when it comes to challenges with new high-performance buildings. Issues with performance are more often related to overly optimistic expectations of how tenants will use the building.

Building owners, managers, and operators need access to data to evaluate, monitor, and respond to building performance. More green building certification programs are demanding performance data to ensure that the building performs as expected. Even the USGBC announced at its 2012 Greenbuild Conference & Expo that it plans to develop a concept known as the “LEED dynamic plaque,” designed to monitor building performance in real time. A renewed industry focus on building performance that goes beyond design and is reflective of occupants’ interaction with the building is contributing to a growing trend in smart building technology including zoned HVAC, wireless controls, data management tools, and sophisticated equipment maintenance alert systems.

2. Focus On Water

Guidelines within the LEED rating system are already guiding water conservation and the new LEED v4 being rolled out this week at Greenbuild will go even further to protect precious water resources. Fixtures that conserve water, rainwater capture, and innovative new onsite water technologies are becoming more commonplace. Greening storm water infrastructure has also led to a trend toward reducing the amount of impervious surfaces, allowing rain to be absorbed, limit runoff, reduce strain on aging storm water treatment systems, and protect waterways from additional pollution.

3. Living Architecture

Driven by innovative design, building owners’ desire to cut energy costs, reduce heat island effect, and improve storm water management, green roofs are growing in popularity. Some cities, such as Philadelphia, even offer a tax credit to private property owners worth 25% of green roof installation costs up to $100,000. Actual growing plants must occupy at least 50% of the total rooftop to qualify for the incentive. Other major cities that provide green roof incentives via tax reductions, grants, and expedited permitting include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, DC.

Lurie Garden Chicago

4. Solar

Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow as costs fall, technology improves, more buildings pursue net-zero goals, and states attempt to reach Renewable Portfolio Standard targets by 2020. In 2014, California will implement revised Title 24 building codes that require all residential construction to be zero net energy by 2020; commercial buildings by 2030. Solar will likely play a role in meeting these goals. Companies such as Google, Walmart, and IKEA are demonstrating on a large scale the value proposition that green building practices and renewable energy present through a combination of cost savings and environmental stewardship.

5. A Closer Look at Materials

Along with the new LEED v4 guidelines come new Materials and Resources credits. The credits are intended to show users how to get information for evaluating the safety and environmental impact of products and help manufacturers to compile the information. LEED does not dictate what chemicals a building can or can’t use, and it does not indicate whether one product is more environmentally responsible then another. According to Brendan Owens, VP of LEED Technical Development at the U.S. Green Building Council, "What we've tried to do with LEED is set up a mechanism that allows users to give preferential selection to products they know something about.” Given an increase in transparency from product manufacturers, a trend toward a more stringent evaluation of products is likely to result. Greenwashers beware!

6. Mandates

While LEED and other green building certifications remain voluntary, local and state governments are issuing their own mandates for green building to establish minimum, enforceable sustainable construction requirements. Codes and ordinances will continue to be a trend that drives green building as cities and states attempt to meet sustainability goals. In addition to laws, tax credits and other incentives are also encouraging green building strategies, such as renewable energy systems and green roofs.

We look forward to learning more about these and other trends in green building at this week’s Greenbuild Conference and Expo in Philadelphia.

photo credit: drewsaunders via photopin cc

By Amy Malloy