The implementation of green building technology will continue around the world for the foreseeable future, according to industry observers.
Housing developers, government agencies, universities and commercial real estate managers are all integrating green technology and designs into their structures and facilities. Despite political turmoil around the world and shifting economic conditions, the adoption of green concepts in construction will likely continue.
Many green trends focus specifically on energy, including clean energy production, energy efficiency and energy management. This is due to two main factors; firstly, energy is the biggest unavoidable operating cost, and secondly, there is an increasing understanding of the link between energy use and climate change, which has increased the calls for green building measures.
The following trends are currently driving green building technology.
The Exploding Popularity of Retro-Fitting
For a few years now, the market for efficiency-boosting retrofits has grown more than the market for new green construction projects. This development has been most evident in commercial real estate, as well as municipal, university, school, and hospital (MUSH) projects. Easy access to capital and the rise of energy service businesses (ESCOs) have prompted building owners and managers to swap future energy savings for modernized facilities.
Building owners and operators can realize significant savings fairly quickly from energy efficiency retro-fits. Data has shown that 10 percent savings can be achieved within the first few years.
Net-Zero Energy Construction
Producing as much energy as they use in a single year, net-zero energy buildings are becoming increasingly prevalent. A 2014 study by the New Buildings Institute found at least 160 net-zero buildings in the US, with another 53 energy-efficient buildings determined to be net-zero capable.
Many developers have started to showcase net-zero designs, partly to distinguish their projects. This development has been growing for the past decade.
Leveraging Big Data
Building owners and managers are increasingly overseeing their facilities remotely. Software platforms can offer performance tracking, analytics, visualization and diagnostics.
This development can be seen in the massive quantity of new offerings in facility management technology, in addition to the proliferation of cheap sensor technology, recognition of the value of energy upgrades and government regulation designed to cut energy use.
Expanding Adoption of Solar
Solar power has one big advantage on other kinds of green technology: they are very noticeable. When a building or a company installs solar panels it makes a clear statement about the owner’s dedication to responsible stewardship of the environment.
Solar panel installations are expected to continue growing, partly because government agencies are projected to continue supporting renewable energy, even as these same agencies support lower energy usage. Furthermore, "net metering” eneables building owners to earn money for surplus electricity generated at the same rate as power is sold.
New tools also motivate the use solar power. For instance, Google’s Project Sunroof combines Google Maps data, historical weather information, utility rates and the value of government incentives to provide information on solar installations. From this data, anyone can evaluate if rooftop photovoltaics would lead to cost savings.
Greater Focus on Water Conservation
While water conservation has long been on the minds of developers in regions vulnerable to drought, the issue is regularly brought to national attention in the US by droughts afflicting California, and the state’s massive agriculture sector in particular.
Increased concerns over the effect of future droughts on both water supply and cost is causing designers, owners, and operators to think about ways to reduce building water usage, possibly through water-conserving fixtures, rainwater systems, efficient cooling towers and other progressive approaches.
Wellness Considerations on the Rise
While staying focused on reducing environmental impacts, the green construction industry is also increasingly embracing a focus on wellness, including greater productivity of workers. There is a growing push to design buildings that support occupant health, a greater sense of community among occupants, higher productivity and overall personal satisfaction.