What’s Trending in 2012?
As our team at Green Building Services looks back at 2011, reflecting on our most successful projects, the continued growth of major organizations investing in sustainable building and the increased demand for sustainability training, tell us that big things are on the horizon on 2012. As sustainable building becomes more mainstream, codes and rating systems are ramping up their stringencies and many in the building industry are eager to abide. Based on industry chatter and analysis of the past year, here’s our forecast of 10 green building trends that will be picking up steam in 2012.
USGBC’s official launch of the Alternative Compliance Paths at Greenbuild 2011 in Toronto is opening the doors to a push in international green building in the coming year. Retail construction is exploding in China, India and South America and we’re seeing more demand to adopt sustainable building practices. LEED is becoming more recognized as a global green building standard. Major corporations are building sustainable locations across international borders and will be in the market for green building standards that traverse geographies.
The newest version of the most widespread green building rating system is phasing in next year with new credit categories, more specific technical requirements and a reach covering more market segments. This upcoming transition to LEED 2012 marks evolving design and construction, and operations and maintenance practices. As in the transition to LEED 2009, LEED 2012 will demonstrate the rating system’s flexibility to adapt to the increasing prevalence of green building and evolve, anticipating the direction of the industry. Mandates across the country will continue to use LEED as the standard for minimum sustainable building standards.
In the spirit of true sustainability, existing buildings will take center stage. The push for building audits, ENERGY STAR benchmarking and continuous commissioning on existing structures as well as building envelope commissioning will be on the rise in the coming year. Because it is arguably more sustainable and cost effective than new construction, we’ve seen increased demand for sustainable consulting for renovations as well as operations and maintenance services. LEED 2012’s new Integrative Process category is also placing heightened importance on repetitive procedures. Durability will be a trend in the coming year as more innovations are developed to keep buildings and systems in efficient working condition for longer.
The evolution of greener energy codes is making way for higher efficiency in 2012. ISO 50001 is emerging as an internationally recognized standard for energy management system requirements and is projected to influence 60% of the world’s energy use. As energy codes continue to evolve sustainably, companies are adopting green building elements across their portfolio to stay ahead. For example, organizations like Bentall Kennedy and Wells Fargo are implementing strategies across their portfolios to meet and exceed new and future standards.
With the uptick of sustainable building mandates and consumer demand for sustainability, funding and incentives for sustainable structures will become more readily available. Because saving the environment might not be quite enough incentive for many developers, state and local governments across the country are establishing new grants and tax incentives for green building. Municipalities including Los Angeles and San Francisco offer expedited permitting for LEED projects. Incentives are becoming more valuable and available as sustainable building becomes more crucial to governments and consumers.
Multiple Building certification efforts have been on the rise since the introduction of the Application Guide for Multiple Buildings and Campus Buildings Projects (AGMBC) in 2005. With the 2010 update, the USGBC offers more guidance to projects pursuing Multiple Building Certification. LEED Volume pilot program of 2006 and official release of 2010 has also generated a significant uptick in portfolio-wide adoption of green building in the U.S. Retail growth in China and India is also a contributing factor to the rise in multi-building certification. Since 95% of all buildings in the U.S. are smaller than 50,000 sf, more emphasis will placed on quantity efficiency, certifying groups of small buildings. As more building owners explore ways to make sustainability a viable option, volume and multi-building certification will present a cost-efficient approach to achieve green building goals. The world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project is underway in Doha, Qatar. Using the AGMBC, the over 100-building development provides a case of multiple building sustainability, as the entire project is projected to achieve at least LEED Gold.
Just like ingredients on a food label, people want to know what’s in their buildings. As materials disclosure moves into the spotlight and USGBC ponders credits to change how manufacturers disclose and formulate, building professionals will need to be more aware of greenwashing, just as consumers do. As this trend develops, organizations will become increasingly concerned about greenwashing red flags and demand product ingredient disclosure or third-party certified products, including wood, cleaning products, furniture, equipment, drywall and insulation. The Healthy Buildings Network’s Pharos Project is driving Environmental Product Declaration with an online tool that provides transparent information on the environmental impact of materials and products. Similarly, the International Living Future Institute has released their Declare program that provides a voluntary platform for manufacturers to communicate transparent product information.
Many companies are supporting more organization-wide training to help reach their sustainability goals, bring their goals full circle and get their green initiatives off the ground faster and more efficiently. Companies are taking a more active role in getting the most out of sustainable renovations by investing in training for building systems controls and occupant behavior. We’ve been working with organizations like Nike, Oregon Health & Science University, University of California to plan training initiatives for the coming year.
As technology continues to grow rapid-fire each year, green IT is becoming more crucial. In the past few months plans for sustainably-built data centers have been rapidly emerging. Energy-supping data centers are staying cool and green by setting up shop in the Arctic and the temperate Pacific Northwest to reduce energy costs and get their energy from more sustainable sources. Even at the purchasing level, consumers are increasingly taking more action evaluating ENERGY STAR, the Zero Waste Alliance’s EPEAT and other energy efficiency ratings on equipment they purchase.
As the sustainability movement stays on track to become the norm, rather than the exception, greater efforts are in the works to develop greener urban districts and more sustainable, low-tech urban design. Portland’s Ecodistrict Summit in October provided a forum for the building community on emerging innovation in neighborhood-scale sustainability. Wastewater management innovation will also be stepping up in 2012. The culmination of several years of research, an extensive report was recently released by the Cascadia Green Building Council that focuses on the decentralizing of water systems, among other issues. “Clean Water, Healthy Sound” makes the case for municipalities to take the plunge into innovating their water systems for future environmental benefit.
Another exciting future indicator, the first ever Green Sports Summit in August provided an optimistic view of what’s to come for the greening of public assembly spaces. Representatives from over 25 professional teams and venues came together at this year’s summit to share how they’re saving millions of dollars and reducing their environmental impact through sustainable building. The buzz is spreading and the sports industry is on its way to making green building the norm.
Everyone at GBS wishes you a fruitful and sustainable 2012.