The Top 20 Green Building Trends for 2011

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green building trendsA list of top green building trends for 2011 is provided by Green building consultant, Jerry Yudelson and Tom Breunig, director of marketing, of  Earth Advantage Institute.

The green building industry will rebound in 2011 in spite of the continuing economic difficulties in most developed countries, says green building and sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson, citing 10 major trends.

Speaking about his annual “Top Ten” list of green building trends, the green building expert and author said, “What we’re seeing is that more people are going green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this trend.” Yudelson, who is the principal of Tucson-based green building consulting company, Yudelson Associates continued, “However, in 2010, the slowdown in commercial real estate put a crimp in the start up rate for new green building projects.” He added, “In putting together my Top Ten trends for 2011, 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 as I have given green building keynotes and presentations all over the world during the past year.”

Jerry Yudelson’s Top Ten Green Building Trends for 2011 include:

1.    The worldwide green building movement will continue to accelerate, as more countries begin to create their own green building incentives and developing their own Green Building Councils. More than 70 countries, on all continents, will show considerable green building growth in 2010.

2.    Green building will rebound in 2011, as measured by the new LEED project registrations as a proxy for this growth. “The reduction in commercial real estate building in many countries,” he said, “was not offset by other sectors such as government, and so the growth rate of new green building projects fell dramatically in 2010.”

3.    The focus of the green building industry will continue to switch from new buildings to greening existing buildings. “The fastest growing LEED rating system in 2010 was the LEED for Existing Buildings program, and I expect this trend to continue in 2011,” said Yudelson. “My 2009 book, Greening Existing Buildings, documents the strategic components of this trend.”

4.    Blue will become the New Green. Awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh water supply will continue to grow, leading building designers and managers to take further steps to reduce water consumption to increase sustainability. This will be done in buildings through the use of more conservation-oriented fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new water technologies. “My latest book, Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis, shows how to do this in green buildings all over the world.”

5.    Green building in the U.S. will continue to benefit from the Obama presidency with a continued focus on greening the executive branch. New announcements of a commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold for all new federal projects and major renovations confirm and highlight this macro-trend.

6.    Zero-net-energy designs for new buildings become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR ratings become too common to confer competitive advantage.

7.    Performance Disclosure will be the fastest emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California and other states. Commercial building owners will have to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers.

8.    Certified Green Schools will grow rapidly as part the LEED System. This trend will accelerate as understanding of the health and educational benefits of green schools grows. Already by mid-year 2010, green schools represented nearly 40% of all new LEED projects in the U.S.

9.    Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings for both themselves and the private sector. We’ll see at least 20 major new cities with commercial sector green building mandates. The desire to reduce carbon emissions by going green will lead more government agencies to require green buildings.

10.    Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow. This trend will be enhanced by the increasing focus of municipal utilities as they need to comply with state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2015 and 2020. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop systems such as on warehouses. However, we may very well see a slowing of large solar and wind systems, as federal grant support, in lieu of tax credits, is phased out.

Yudelson added two “bonus picks” to his list: “First, there will be a continually growing use of software and the Internet “cloud” in green building design, construction and operations; Second, the revolution in sustainable building materials is gaining momentum each year, one that gives higher performance at ever lower costs.”

Earth Advantage Institute also published their list, prepared by Tom Breunig, which takes a residential building focus.  Their list of trends range from “affordable green” to lifecycle analysis of materials.

1. Affordable green. Many consumers typically associate green and energy-efficient homes and features with higher costs. However, the development of new business models, technologies, and the mainstreaming of high performance materials is bringing high-performance, healthy homes within reach of all homeowners. Leading the charge are affordable housing groups, including Habitat for Humanity and local land trusts, now building and selling LEED® for Homes- and ENERGY STAR®-certified homes across the country at price points as low as $100,000*. In the existing homes market, energy upgrades are now available through new programs that include low-cost audits and utility bill-based financing. Through such programs as Clean Energy Works Oregon, and Solar City’s solar lease-to-own business model, no up-front payment is required to take advantage of energy upgrades.

2. Sharing and comparing home energy use. As social and purchasing sites like Facebook and Groupon add millions more members, the sharing of home energy consumption data – for rewards – is not far behind. The website Earth Aid (www.earthaid.net) lets you track home energy usage and earn rewards for energy savings from local vendors. You can also elect to share the information with others on Earth Aid to see who can conserve the most energy. When coupled with other developments including home energy displays, a voluntary home energy scoring system announced by the Department of Energy, and programs including Oregon and Washington’s Energy Performance Score, a lot more people will be sharing — and comparing — their home energy consumption.

3. Outcome-based energy codes. Existing buildings are responsible for most energy use and associated carbon emissions, but the prescriptive energy codes used in commercial remodels don’t encourage effective retrofitting. Compliance with energy codes is determined at permit time, using prescriptive or predictive models, and actual post-construction may never even be reviewed. Heating and cooling equipment could be faulty or improperly controlled, with significant energy and financial implications. Under outcome-based energy codes, owners could pursue the retrofit strategy that they decide is most effective for their building and its tenants, but they would be required to achieve a pre-negotiated performance target through mandatory annual reporting. The City of Seattle and the New Building Institute have teamed up with the National Trusts’ Preservation Green Lab to pioneer a framework for just such a code, for both new and existing buildings.

4. Community purchasing power. Neighborhoods interested in renewable energy will increasingly band together to obtain better pricing on materials such as solar panels and on installation costs. The Solarize Portland program was initiated by local neighborhood leaders in Southeast Portland who wanted to increase the amount of renewable energy generated in their area by working together as a community. The program is structured so that the price of solar panel installation decreases for everybody as more neighbors join the effort. Group purchasing creates a 15-25 percent savings below current prices. This group discount, in addition to current available tax credits and cash incentives, gives participants a significant cost savings. In Philadelphia, the Retrofit Philly program leverages contests between residential blocks to get neighborhoods involved in energy upgrades.

5. Intersection of smart homes, “grid-aware” appliances, and smart grid. While many residential smart meters have been installed, the customer interface that will allow homeowners to track energy use more accurately are not yet in place. In the meantime, manufacturers are increasingly introducing appliances that are “grid-aware.” These appliances are endowed with more sophisticated energy management capabilities and timers, offering homeowners machines that monitor and report their own electricity usage and that increase or decrease that usage by remote command. Many machines have timers and can already be manually programmed to run during off-peak hours. These developments will begin forging the convergence of a smart grid infrastructure and the control applications needed to manage energy savings in our buildings and homes.

6. Accessory dwelling units. Last year we discussed home “right-sizing” as a trend. However, with fewer people moving or building due to financial concerns, many have chosen to stay put in their favorite area and build accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These small independent units, which can be used for offices, studios, or in-law space, are the ideal size for energy savings and sustainable construction. As detached or attached rental units, they help cities increase urban density and restrict sprawl, while allowing homeowners to add value to their property. The cities of Portland, Oregon, and Santa Cruz, California, have waived administrative fees to encourage more ADU construction.

7. Rethinking of residential heating and cooling. Advances in applied building science in the US and abroad have resulted in homes that are so tightly sealed and insulated that furnace-less, ductless homes are now a reality. The increasingly popular “Passive House” standard, for example, calls for insulation in walls and ceiling that is so thick that the home is actually heated by everyday activity of the occupants, from cooking to computer use. Even in ENERGY STAR-certified homes builders are now encouraged to bring all  ductwork inside the insulated envelope of the house to eliminate excess heat or cooling loss, and to use only small but efficient furnaces and air conditioners to avoid wasting power. Geothermal heating and cooling, where piping loops are run through the ground to absorb warmth in the winter and cool air in the summer, are another option gaining broader acceptance.

8. Residential Grey Water Use. With water shortages looming in many areas including the Southwest and Southern California, recycling of grey water – any household wastewater with the exception of toilet water – is gaining traction. Benefits include reduced water use, reduced strain on septic and stormwater systems, and groundwater replenishment. Although many cities have been slow to legislate on grey water use, some communities have increased the amount of allowable grey water use for irrigation. Systems can be as simple as a pipe system draining directly into a mulch field or they can incorporate collection tanks and pumps.

9. Small Commercial Certification. 95 percent of commercial building starts in the U.S. are under 50,000 square feet, but the bulk of current certified commercial buildings tend to be much larger. This is in part because of numerous “soft” costs including commissioning, energy modeling, project registration, and administrative time, all of which can be prohibitively expensive for small building owners and developers. To encourage more small commercial projects to go green, alternative certification programs have sprung up, including Earthcraft Light Commercial and Earth Advantage Commercial which have found significant appeal.

10. Lifecycle Analysis (LCA). We know quite a bit about the performance of certain materials used in high performance home and commercial building construction, but the industry has just begun to study the effects of these materials over the course of their entire lives, from raw material extraction through disposal and decomposition. Lifecycle analysis examines the impact of materials over their lifetime through the lens of environmental indicators including embodied energy, solid waste, air and water pollution, and global warming potential. LCA for building materials will allow architects to determine what products are more sustainable and what combination of products can produce the most environmentally friendly results.

*In the case of land trusts, homeowners do not own the land the home is built on.

About Jerry Yudelson

Jerry Yudelson, President of Yudelson Associates, a green building consulting company, is widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s leading green building and sustainability consultants and keynote speakers. He is the author of 12 green building books, including: Greening Existing Buildings; Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis; Green Building Through Integrated Design; Marketing Green Buildings: Guide for Engineering, Construction and Architecture;  and Developing Green: Strategies for Success.  Follow Jerry on Twiiter @jerryyudelson. Connect with Jerry on Linkedin. Tune in to Jerry’s videos on YouTube.  View his presentations on SlideShare.

About Tom Breunig
Tom Breunig, director of marketing, joined Earth Advantage Institute in 2009 from the high tech industry. He brings 20 years of marketing, communications and competitive research to the team. Prior to joining EAI, he served as vice president of corporate communications at a publicly held European semiconductor firm. He holds an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Columbia University. His interests include tracking green building technology trends.

© 2011, GEP- Admin. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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    There is obviously a lot to consider about this. But I think you made some good points in discussing the topic.

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    There is obviously a lot to consider about this. But I think you made some good points in discussing the topic.

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    Thanks for this amazing list of  green building ideas. I just like to add the use of bamboo and the eco-friendliness of this particular material.

  • Mike Lauber

    These are some good points to consider.  I would also add that trend will also be helped by rising energy costs