The green building studies and reports we spotlight cover the following topics:  The potential financial benefits of green retrofits; the importance of overcoming the social and psychological barriers to green building; the use of impact fees to encourage green building; the use of mandates and incentives to promote sustainable construction; feedback from the construction industry on the risks that come with green building; global green building trends; green practices reported by facilities management professionals; and reshaping municipal and county laws to foster green building.  See them below.

1. Green Building Retrofits Represent a Potential $400B Market. The energy efficiency retrofit market recently received a major boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which will provide substantial funding for renovations to institutional buildings, especially federal buildings. The institutional market is booming now, and activity initiated in the next few years will continue through 2013 and beyond. However, federal non-industrial buildings represent a small fraction of all existing commercial building space. The largest potential for long term, sustained growth in commercial building retrofits lies in the private commercial space. Although relatively small at present, this market will experience strong growth through 2013 and for many years beyond. Compared to conventional space, high-performance green building space is vacant less often and commands premium prices, leading commercial building owners to adopt green retrofits as a market differentiator. Unlike government policies that come and go, this market driver will fuel steady momentum until most commercial building space has been retrofitted for energy efficiency and also for other measures of building performance such as thermal comfort.

2. Using Mandates and Incentives to Promote Sustainable Construction and Green Building . A host of governments have joined the U.N. in calling for green building standards, not only to conserve energy, but also to achieve more socially responsible real estate development. A discernable movement is now afoot for government to play a significant role in promoting green building projects. But there is not yet agreement on what that role should be. In particular, green building standards have not yet found their place within the realm of land use regulation. In the United States, land use controls are normally adopted, implemented, and enforced at the local level, where they are subject to local political influences that make it unlikely that municipalities alone will bring about the required green building revolution. And prospects for effective green building initiatives resulting from international or national sustainable development policies are dim due to the resurgent private property rights movement in this country. While the principles at stake are considerable, we must not allow deep philosophical, normative, and political battles over the more controversial aspects of sustainable development theory to retard progress on this matter of critical global concern. This article argues that timely, meaningful movement toward sustainability in the U.S. building industry requires state-level legislation that promotes, and sometimes even mandates, green building standards at the regional and local levels.

3. Overcoming the Social and Psychological Barriers to Green Building. The green building movement has overcome formidable, technical, and economic hurdles in recent years, yet adoption of green building practices within the design and construction field remains low. Major corporations now offer products and services at a scale that is bringing costs down to competitive levels, but environmental sustainability in building design and delivery remains at the early stages of the adoption s-curve. This paper argues that environmental progress in the building design and construction industry will continue to stall if the significant social and psychological barriers that remain are not addressed. After surveying the three levels of barriers—individual, organizational, and institutional—the article concludes with strategies for overcoming them. Seven specific strategies are elaborated, namely, issue framing, targeting the right demographic, education, structural and incentive change, indemnifying risk, green building standard improvements, and tax reform.

4. Green Building: Assessing the Risks–Feedback from the Construction Industry. This reports lays out theconcerns that building owners, contractors, and design firm executives are most concerned about with regards to green buildings. They include risks that may be associated with these projects, including potential financial exposures, uncertainty about evolving regulatory standards and legal issues, validating the qualifications of consultants and subcontractors, and assessing the long-term performance of green building materials, among other potential issues. The report is based on feedback from 55 senior executives involved in green design and construction

5. Global Green Building Trends: Market Growth and Perspectives from Around the World. This first-ever global look at green building market trends covers market activity, key triggers and obstacles, and trends in renewable energy driving green building in seven regions around the world, the report is based on a survey of early market adopters in 45 countries. Major findings include: By 2013, 53% of responding firms expect to be largely dedicated to green building (on over 60% of projects), up from 30% today; The fastest growing regional green building market is Asia, where the population of firms largely dedicated to green building is expected to jump from 36% today to 73% in 2013; 86% of firms expect rapid or steady growth in sales and profit levels associated with green building; Solar power is the most common form of renewable energy in every region, used by over half (52%) of industry professionals today and expected to grow to 76% in the next five years. The most dramatic growth is expected in wind power use (57% expected in 2013, up from 20% today), followed closely by geothermal power (expected to double from 22% today to 45% in 2013). The right thing to do” is the top business reason driving green building around the world. “Supporting the domestic economy” is prominent in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East/North Africa, while “environmental regulations” are driving market activity in Asia and Europe.

6. Reshaping Municipal and County Laws to Foster Green. The efficient use of energy in the built environment has been recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many other experts to offer a potential greater than any other sector to reduce CO2 emissions (as much as a 29% reduction of the projected baseline by 2020 according to the IPCC) using mature cost effective technologies. Many governmental units and professional organizations have committed to a goal of carbon neutrality in buildings by 2030. Local governments can have a critical positive impact on global warming and on meeting these goals by creating a receptive legal environment and enacting mandates that foster green buildings, energy efficiency, and renewable energy both in government operations and by the general population. There are a great many available tools and more are being developed every day. This paper(1) reviews why action at the local level is necessary; (2) provides a general overview of the organizational structures that have been developed to assist local governments in this effort; (3) reviews illustrative legal measures that have been taken at the local level to promote green building; (4) focuses on legal measures to increase energy efficiency; (5) addresses legal mechanisms employed to remove obstacles and foster development of renewable energy; (6) discusses planning for adaptation; (7) presents the opportunity afforded by comprehensive planning; and (8) describes some tools that have been developed to fund local efforts in this arena.

7. Note, Making it Easy to Be Green: Using Impact Fees to Encourage Green Building. Green building – the construction of buildings designed to minimize environmental impact and resource use – has become significantly more common in the past decade. Many local and state governments have enacted policies designed to stimulate green building. These policies generally include information provision and subsidies for private green development as well as outright greenness requirements for all government buildings. Despite this commitment from government and despite substantial evidence that green buildings are financially beneficial for private owners, the private sector has been very slow to embrace green building. This Note argues that barriers to innovation in the real estate industry have rendered ineffective these local government attempts to stimulate green building, and suggests that impact fees – fees imposed by local governments on land use development – will be more successful in pushing private real estate developers to build green. Although the use of these fees is subject to both state and federal constitutional constraints, an appropriately designed fee can maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of this proposal while also ensuring that the fees are constitutional.

8. The Global Facility Management Association Green Practices Study. This study involves the measurement of attitudes and behavior of facility managers in relation to implementing sustainability initiatives at their organizations. Previous studies were conducted in September of 2002 and 2005; however, this 2008 survey was expanded significantly. Ninety-two percent of respondents say that they are working to make their facilities more sustainable. In addition, 67% say their customers are “forcing them” make sustainable changes. Forty-six percent say the government is forcing the change. For 73%, financial challenges are the leading hurdle in making sustainable changes. Recycling, at 90%, and energy efficiency, at 80%, are the leading sustainability initiatives that have already been implemented.

9. Cascadia Value of Green Building Study. Green building may be booming, especially in the Northwest, but the claims made for high-performance buildings have been slow to gain traction in the financial community. Appraisers, lenders, investors and brokers have found it difficult to confirm the value of high-performance green features and related savings. A new study of office buildings in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, BC by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, the Vancouver Valuation Accord and Cushman & Wakefield identifies how high-performance green features and systems can increase the value of commercial buildings. The report outlines how value was achieved and how sustainable attributes impact costs, savings, investment income, and capital value. It is a tool to help bridge the gap in understanding between the green building and financial communities.

10. Dollars & Cents of Green Retrofits. A growing number of companies are implementing green retrofits of their buildings to save money, improve productivity, lower absenteeism and healthcare costs, strengthen employee attraction and retention, and improve their corporate sustainability reports and brand equity – all at a relatively modest cost. However, timing is important for companies seeking to use green retrofits as a point of competitive differentiation. The earlier a company performs a green retrofit, the more differentiation it stands to gain, as we believe that the increasing interest in green building among businesses and lawmakers will soon make green construction practices mainstream. Green buildings offer their owners and tenants a number of bottom-line benefits, including reductions in water and energy use and costs; opportunities with respect to tax credits, permitting, and other regulatory incentives; and greater worker productivity and satisfaction, improved brand image, and better community relations. Companies that cannot afford to construct a new green building, or that cannot afford the cost and disruption of moving to a green building or of undertaking a top-to-bottom green renovation of their existing conventional workplaces, may find that green retrofits are a practical way to improve their sustainability, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and reap the many benefits of green workplaces.

If we missed a green building study that you think is important, post it below with a link to it in the comments section.


© 2009 – 2011, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.

  • John Tepper Marlin

    Important topic. Thanks for following it.

  • Eileen Moran

    A wealth of information, thanks for pulling it all together. I’m in the construction industry and I feel it necessary to get up to date on green building.

  • http://www.audacityofhelp.net John Wasik

    There are a load of green building incentives in the economic stimulus plan and the 2010 budget. I cover them in detail in my new book “The Audacity of Help: Obama’s Economic Plan and the Remaking of America.” Obama is serious about the Green Deal and there’s more in the climate change legislation.

  • http://www.practicaleco.com Paulo Nery

    Thanks for posting this great summary of useful studies. There’s another from last year that I think you may appreciate. The Costar Group study showed that green buildings perform significantly better in terms of occupancy rates, rental value and sales price. I wrote about it on my blog:
    http://www.practicaleco.com/2008/03/costar-study-sh.html
    .-= Paulo Nery´s last blog ..Southern Energy and Environment Expo this weekend in Fletcher NC =-.