#1 Green Megatrend for 2012: Green Building Rebound
There wasn’t much activity in green building last year. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project growth was only 3% for 2011. But this year the eco-construction sector of real estate is expected to show a noticeable recovery, especially where it involves retrofitting existing buildings with new green features.
In a recent webinar for GreenExpo365 (an online connection for the green building community), one of the industry’s foremost authorities broke down his predictions for the top “Green Megatrends” of 2012—the first of which calls for more LEED standard building projects in markets all over the world. According to Jerry Yudelson, who not only sits on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Green Building Council but is also a faculty member of LEED, there is going to be a real focus on making sustainable, eco-friendly options cost-effective in both residential and commercial real estate building.
It will most certainly be a challenge for new construction green projects to regain footing in today’s hard-hit economic setting. However, project registrations for LEED-EBOM (or LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Management) have already gone up 18% in 2011 and will likely do even better in 2012. Last year was the first that the collective square footage of LEED-EBOM projects surpassed that of new construction LEED at 675 million sq. ft. versus 649 million sq. ft. respectively.
Yudelson believes 2012 will see more green retrofits in places like convention center/hotels, hospitals, large-scale grocery stores and retail establishments. These types of businesses and other commercial developments are also prime for zero-net-energy designs. The ability to decrease energy consumption and increase sustainability to a zero-net level is easiest for buildings that are between two and four stories and use anywhere from 30,000 to 35,000 British thermal units/square foot annually. The cost to attain a net-zero goal does run a little more, but only about 3%-5%, Yudelson says.
President Obama and former President Clinton recently announced a new $4 billion plan called the Better Building Initiative that will pump some money into the field. But, as Yudelson explains, four billion doesn’t go very far in this line of work so many builders will have to come up with cash another way. Because there won’t be as much federal funding available for such endeavors, green developers are likely to depend more on state and local governments for any sort of financial assistance.
As the year progresses, Chicagoans are sure to see additional LEED-EBOM ventures in both commercial buildings and homes throughout the city. However, don’t expect every new green project to incorporate solar power systems. The technology is loosing some ground because it is so expensive to purchase and install. That isn’t to say it should be totally discounted, though. There is a high possibility that solar will make a comeback as solutions to its high cost are developed. That’s why Yudelson recommends making any new green building “PV ready”—so it will be simple to add photovoltaic panels later when they are more economical.