With commercial buildings globally accounting for 40% of energy use, 38% of greenhouse gas emissions, 12% of potable water use, and 40% of solid waste streams, according to UNEP (United Nations Environmental Protection), it’s no wonder that there is now a concerted drive in the construction industry toward more environmentally-responsible buildings. Sustainable construction is not only a benefit to the environment, but also to businesses, reducing operating costs and shaping the market for green products and services.
Over the past decade, the hospitality industry along with others in commercial real estate, began incorporating green building trends in new construction as well as renovation of new spaces. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is driving the trend in green construction with a focus on energy efficiency. Though it does cost more initially, sustainable construction saves money in the end. Businesses are also reporting higher productivity among employees and schools that are LEED certified are finding student test scores are higher, with an increase of 20%.
It’s likely that the cost and complexity of LEED certification will drive professionals in the industry to move toward the simpler and more affordable Green Globes rating system which is now recognized by the U. S. General Services Administration (GSA). Recently the system has been put on par with LEED for Federal projects. The GSA recognizes the Two Globes certification from Green Globes as equivalent to the LEED Silver Certification.
There has been a sharp increase in the demand for the greening of existing buildings, which could potentially surpass the demand for sustainably built new construction. It’s predicted that more than 500 Federal buildings will seek to upgrade to LEED standards in 2014 alone. Many owners and developers are also moving swiftly toward zero-net-energy (ZNE), an ultra-efficiency goal that has the potential to transform the way buildings use energy. The goal of ZNE buildings is to use no more energy during a one-year period than they can produce from on-site renewable sources.
Cloud computing has affected the greening of the construction industry in the way that the technology influences the design of new and renovated spaces and the management of construction projects. Solar power continues to be a trend in sustainable construction. There has been a marked uptick in owners of commercial property considering rooftop solar power systems, which they can afford more easily because of third party financing, now more readily available for such projects.
In 2013 disclosure standards, which require building owners to divulge their property’s green performance, were enacted by many major cities across the U. S. This is an indication that the green trend is not a fad, but continues to grow in popularity among commercial real estate owners and developers. Data shows that “going green” provides huge value: operating costs go down, environmental hazards decrease, utility savings improve, and it is believed that the overall health of those working and living in green environments tends to be better.