The green building industry will rebound in 2011 in spite of the continuing slow economic recovery in most developed countries, based on an analysis of 10 major trends. More people are going green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this trend. However, in 2010, the slowdown in commercial real estate put a crimp in the start-up rate for new green building projects. In putting together my Top Ten Trends for 2011, I�m taking advantage of conversations I�ve had with green-building industry leaders in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia, as I have given green-building presentations all over the world during 2010.
The “Top Ten Green Building Trends for 2011” include:
- The worldwide green building movement will continue to accelerate, as more countries begin to create national green-building incentives and develop their own green building councils. Nearly 70 countries, on all continents with national green building councils will show considerable green-building growth in 2011.
- Green building will rebound in 2011, as measured by the new LEED project registrations as a proxy for growth. The dramatic slowdown in commercial real estate construction in many countries was not offset by other sectors such as government and education, and so the growth rate of new green-building projects fell dramatically in 2010. In 2011, while new commercial construction is expected to remain at 2010 levels, the pace of certifying existing buildings to the LEED standard will pick up.
- Green building in the U.S. will continue to benefit from the Obama presidency with a continued focus on greening the executive branch. New announcements of a commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold for all new federal projects and major renovations confirm this macro-trend.
- The focus of the green-building industry will continue to switch from new buildings to greening existing buildings. The fastest-growing LEED rating system in 2010 was the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED EBOM) program, and I expect this trend to continue in 2011. Large building management companies such as CB Richard Ellis have made firm commitments to LEED EBOM certification.
- Blue will become the new green. Awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh-water supply will continue to grow, leading building designers and managers to take further steps in reducing water consumption to increase sustainability. This will be done in buildings through the use of more conservation-oriented fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new water technologies.
- Net-zero-energy designs for new buildings become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR ratings become too common to confer competitive advantage.
- Performance disclosure will be the fastest-emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California and a few other states. Commercial building owners will have to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers. This requirement is already established throughout the European Union through the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
- Certified green schools will grow rapidly as part the LEED system. This trend will accelerate as understanding of the health and educational benefits of green schools grows. Already at mid-year 2010, green schools represented nearly 40% of all new LEED projects in the United States.
- Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings for both themselves and the private sector. We’ll see at least 20 major new cities with commercial-sector green-building mandates. The desire to reduce carbon emissions by going green will lead more government agencies to require green buildings.
- Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow. This trend will be enhanced by the increasing focus of municipal utilities on solar power, as they comply with state-level renewable-power standards for 2015 and 2020. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop systems such as on warehouses. However, we may very well see a slowing of large solar and wind systems, if federal grant support in lieu of tax credits, is phased out.
Finally, I want to add two “bonus trends” to this list: First, there will be a continually growing use of software and the Internet “cloud” in green-building design, construction and operations. Second, the revolution in sustainable building materials is gaining momentum each year, one that gives higher performance at ever-lower costs..