While we know the building industry had a rough year in 2009, not all of the industry has been in the doldrums. Niche markets such at the green sector have been doing well despite rough economic times for the design and construction industry overall. Here are the key trends that will affect the way we build when it comes to being green in 2010.
Energy labeling for homes and office buildings. The advent of more accurate energy rating systems for homes and office spaces – similar to the miles-per-gallon sticker on your car – has caught the attention of energy agencies and legislators around the country. Not only can it makea building-to-building or home-to-home comparison easier, but a publicly available score on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) could galvanize owners to make needed energy improvements while adding value to their building. A post-improvement audit can also measure the effectiveness of upgrades, a useful tool for gauging results of stimulus funding for retrofits.
Building information modeling (BIM) software. The continued evolution of CAD software for building design has produced new add-on tools with increasingly accurate algorithms for energy modeling as well as embedded energy properties for many materials and features. This will prove instrumental in predicting building performance. BIM developers will soon be offering more affordable packages aimed at smaller firms and individual builders. Contractors are predicted to show the greatest increase in usage of BIM compared with any other group, according to market research firm McGraw Hill Construction.
Carbon Calculation. With buildings contributing roughly half the carbon emissions in the the environement, the progressive elements in the building industry are looking at ways to document, measure, and reduce greenhouse gas creation in building materials and processes. Lifecycle analysis (LCA) of building products is underway by third party technical teams, while others are working with federal and state building authorities to educate staff, create monetized carbon credits, and develop effective carbon offset policies. This effort will be heightened once a federal cap-and-trade mechanism is launched in this country.
Net Zero Buildings. A net zero building is a building that generates more energy than it uses over the course of a year, as a result of relatively small size, extreme efficiencies and onsite renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or geo-exchange systems. While the Architecture 2030 Challenge sets forth net zero as the goal for all buildings in 2030, we are already within striking distance on many fronts. Building extreme efficiency into a structure is highly cost effective, and achieves the bulk of the net zero effort. Oregon already has several net zero homes, and the planned Oregon Sustainability Center is an example of a net zero office building.
Sustainable building education. While the slowdown afforded many builders the opportunity to learn about green building and establish credentials, the momentum for green building is being supplied by homebuyers, homeowners and building owners. The continued demand, especially in progressive cities, will supply new learning opportunities, not just for designers and builders but for the entire chain of professionals involved in the building industry, from real estate to finance, and insurance. These peripheral professionals seek to know more about the features and benefits of sustainable construction in order to place an appropriate value on a green building. In this way they can be assured that there will not be a disconnect between the homeowner’s or builder’s perceived value and the appraiser’s perceived value, and all parties can benefit from the greening of the building industry.
Financial community buy-in to green building. Lenders and insurers have come to see green homes and buildings as better for their bottom line and are working to get new reduced-rate loan products, insurance packages, and metrics into place. Lenders and insurers are realising green home and building owners are more responsible, place higher value on maintenance and lower operating costs, and are less likely to default.