Going Green and the Building Industry
The popularity of green living has increased significantly over the years. No industry has been impacted more by green initiatives than the building industry. “In 2010, a third of all new commercial construction was green, amounting to a $54 billion market for commercial green buildings” (Pentland, W.). With this discussion we will review how green initiatives have shaped and continue to shape the operations of the construction industry. “By 2015, green buildings in the commercial sector are expected to triple, accounting for $120 billion to $145 billion in new construction and $14 billion to $18 billion in major retrofit and renovation projects” (Pentland, W.). To understand how building operations have been impacted by green demand we need to review these green building objectives and initiatives.
Founded in 1993, The US Green Building Council (USGBC) is the authority set in place to coordinate and monitor the nation’s sustainable building practices. It is committee based, member-driven, and consensus-focused. To assist in the administration of these practices the USGBC has set up a green building rating system known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED rates projects based on some of the following initiatives; Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Material & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation. LEED projects are qualified into the following certifications Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Designing and building a Gold or Platinum project will have significant more development expense and commitment than Certified and Silver projects but the reward and recognition have substantial benefits.
Consumer and business demand are trending toward sustainability, energy efficiency, and overall green living practices. Many tenants are even willing to pay a premium for space in green buildings. One of the benefits is that employees will be more productive (Pentland). Developers are responding to and meeting this demand. Google also understands consumer needs. Google has offered a $3 million grant to the USGBC to support green building efforts. With this grant the USGBC plans to conduct further scientific research on building materials along with pushing for more material content transparency (Post, N. & Catinella, R.). Traditional data centers have a high energy demand and commercial buildings as a whole are responsible for consuming a great amount of energy derived from fossil fuels. HP has the goal of developing/operating a data center that would consume zero net energy from the grid over the facility lifetime. The center is slated to have 30% greater efficiency and sourced renewable power. Through this project HP is stating they are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and focusing on clean renewable energy (Post, N.).
Modifying and retrofitting existing buildings to improve building efficiency is also a growing trend. President Obama and former President Clinton have introduced legislation to support retrofitting existing buildings through the Better Buildings Initiative (Easley, C.). This initiative is primarily targeted to large hotels and retail establishments. The synergy here is trifold; these buildings will lessen their carbon footprint, increase efficiency and lower annual operating costs.
Green building is a trend that is now becoming the norm and developers are following suit through client demands. Architects, Engineers, and Consultants have also had to embrace the green building design in order to satisfy the demand. Some Architectural trends include designing open floor plans to increase daylight harvesting, roofing components with high solar reflective indexes to keep buildings cooler, drought tolerant landscaping, and requiring the use of sustainable/renewable materials. Mechanical and Plumbing Engineers are focusing on issues like water