Sustainable Industries: Green Buildings on the Rise

Source: Jerry Yudelson, PE, LEED Fellow, Sustainable Industries, December 4, 2011.

Green building will continue its rebound globally in 2012 in spite of ongoing economic difficulties in most developed economies. What we’re seeing is that more people are building green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this megatrend or its constituent elements. However, in 2010 and 2011, the continuing slowdown in commercial real estate and the end of federal recovery funding put a crimp in new green building projects.

In putting together my top ten trends for 2012, I’m taking advantage of conversations I’ve had with green building industry leaders in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia during the past year.

  1. Green building in North America will rebound in 2012, using new LEED project registrations as a proxy for this growth. The reduction in commercial real estate construction has not been offset by other sectors such as government construction, which has continued to falter, and so the growth rate of new green building projects fell dramatically in 2010 and 2011. Even so, in 2011, LEED in new construction accounted for about 20 percent of all put-in-place space, with domestic LEED project registrations up almost 40 percent vs. depressed 2010 levels. However, we see faster growth in green retrofits and notice that ongoing college and university projects and NGO activity are serving to backstop the fall in commercial and governmental construction. In addition, LEED growth has been and will be rapid in China and other fast-growing economies.
  2. Green building will continue to benefit from the Obama administration’s strengthened focus on greening the executive branch, with its commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold for all federal projects and focus on major energy-efficiency renovations.
  3. The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from new building design and construction to greening existing buildings. One fast-growing LEED rating system during the past two years has been LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM), with cumulative floor area in certified projects now greater than in new construction, and I expect this trend to pick up even more in 2012. My book, Greening Existing Buildings, documents the strategic and tactical components of this trend. One driver of this megatrend is that “green” buildings have rents and asset prices that are significantly higher than those documented for conventional office space, according to a recent major academic research study on commercial buildings in the U.S. and Europe.
  4. Awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh water supply will increase, leading building designers, owners and managers to take further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings by using more conserving fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new onsite water technologies. My recent book, Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis, shows how this is being done in green buildings all over the world.

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