The Top Four Green Building Trends for 2018
By Christine Vogt
Senior Editor, MindEdge Learning
According to the United Nations, 54 percent of today’s world population lives in urban environments, and this number is projected to increase to 66 percent by the year 2050. Current estimates of the degree of urbanization in North America range as high as 81 percent. The increasing urbanization of the world’s population places increasing strains on natural resources, the surrounding environment, and human health. Poor air quality, diminishing water supplies, increased levels of energy consumption and waste, are just a few of the problems associated with increasing population density.
In the face of the growing demands of urban population growth, sustainable design and green building practices have taken center stage. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System – LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—has emerged as one of the most widely used green building certification programs in the world.
The green building industry has also seen extensive growth in recent years. An impact study conducted by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton estimates that green construction will contribute 1.1 million jobs, with LEED directly contributing $29.8 billion to GDP, in 2018. From 2015 to 2018, the report estimates that LEED-Certified buildings generated $1.2 billion in energy savings, $715.3 million in maintenance savings, $149.5 million in water savings, and $54.2 million in waste savings.
Given the ever-increasing scarcity of environmental resources and the demonstrated economic benefits of green building strategies, the sustainability movement is rapidly becoming the norm for building construction. Green building and design practices are now an integral part of the construction and design process in a variety of building types and projects, ranging from residential homes and commercial buildings to neighborhood planning and community development. While the landscape of the green building industry is always changing, here are the top four green building trends for 2018.
1. Passive Building Design
Two systems account for the majority of a building’s energy expense: heating and cooling (HVAC) and lighting. One strategy aimed at reducing these expenses is passive building design. The primary goal of passive building design is to maximize the use of natural daylight and ventilation to meet the lighting, heating, and cooling demands of a building. Passive design methods reduce or eliminate the need for auxiliary heating or cooling and can save up to 90 percent of heating and cooling costs.
The incorporation of passive building strategies into a building’s design varies by location and climate. Regardless of location, it is crucial to consider site orientation at the start of the design process, to maximize the use of the site’s natural daylight and ventilation. Other passive design elements that are increasing in popularity include green roofs, transpired solar collectors, radiant facades, heat pumps, skylights, and light tubes.
2. Occupant Health & Wellness
Advances in green building and design have fostered a heightened awareness of the impact that the indoor environment has on human performance. A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine quantified the loss in productivity related to indoor environmental quality issues at $150 billion. Another study on the effects of indoor air quality conducted by researchers at Harvard and Syracuse Universities found that employees working in the simulated green environment performed 61 percent better on cognitive tests.
In light of these and other similar findings, the market demand for “healthy buildings” continues to drive innovation in the green building industry. New building technologies aimed at improving the health and wellness of occupants are continually being developed. Some of the most recent innovations are sunlight-sensitive smart lighting technologies designed to improve indoor lighting, as well as air quality sensors that monitor levels of CO2 and volatile organic compounds Incorporating these technologies into new construction has already become the norm, and today there is a growing focus on green retrofits and remodeling of older buildings.
3. Resilient Design
September 2017 was the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. A total of 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes—six of which were a Category 3 or stronger—battered the U.S. and Caribbean. The three most powerful hurricanes of this past season (Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria) are estimated to have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage. While the debate continues as to whether climate change has played a role in the recent spike in natural disasters, most people agree on the need to reduce the risk that these types of disasters pose to populations and infrastructure.
What role does the green building have in addressing these issues? Sustainable design practices are being incorporated into buildings and infrastructure to make each less susceptible to natural disasters. Urban planners are emphasizing the incorporation of green design strategies—such as including greenways to serve as natural barriers in flood-prone locations—in the development of master plans. And more communities, especially island communities, are exploring alternative green methods to supply power—wind and solar—in an effort to lessen their reliance on the power grid.
4. Net-Zero Energy Buildings
The need to reduce energy consumption continues to be a priority as the global strain on natural resources increases. In the United States, the built environment accounts for roughly 72 percent of electricity consumption and 38 percent of all C02 emissions. Net-zero is a design strategy for engineering buildings that consume the same amount of energy that they produce. In recent years, this sector of the green building industry has experienced unprecedented growth, experiencing a 50 percent increase in 2017 alone.
A report by Navigant Research projects that the demand in North America for products and services related to net-zero residential and commercial buildings will increase at a rate of 38.4 percent annually, reaching more than $127 billion by the year 2035. Continuing advances in technologies related to renewable energy and efficient energy consumption—including radiant cooling systems, heat pumps, and improvements in building envelope materials—are driving growth in this emerging field.
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