Monday, December 7, 2009

2009 Green Building Snapshots & Trends

Although limited by its restriction to the LEED rating system standard, the latest Green Building Market & Impact Report 2009 by Rob Watson is a useful snapshot of current status and projections for the green construction industry.  USGBC's Green Jobs Study, prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton, evaluates the economic impact of green buildings in terms of the "total number of direct, indirect, and induced jobs created from green building expenditures."

GBCI currently has over 20,156 LEED registered projects totaling 322 million square feet, and that's great news for improving our industry's impact on the environment.  As champions of green building, we'd welcome a total green square footage estimate that takes LEED, Green Globes, and other local Green ratings systems into account.  Although not a comprehensive solution, we still see the investment in LEED certification as being valuable for long-term value and as a road map to green performance outcomes.

The latest studies are also investigating the interconnection of green building and our economy.  Moving from a "triple bottom line" (ecological, social and economic responsibility), the trend is an "integrated bottom line," with environmental and social concerns enhancing profitability.    USGBC's study projecting over 7.9 million jobs and $396 billion in labor earnings from green construction for 2009 through 2013 is encouraging for our industry and nation's economic recovery.

LEED's requirements are useful guidelines for sustainable design and construction whether certification is pursued or not.

Owners and developers must carefully weigh the value of green construction and LEED certification in terms of immediate financial and PR returns, as well as long-term risk versus reward.  One example of this balance is the LEED v3 requirement to provide performance data for a five-year period following construction, or risk revocation of LEED status.  The building team's commitment to five years post-construction must be sufficient to ensure adequate performance, and may need to be contractually defined to protect the Owner's investment.  LEED's requirements are useful guidelines for sustainable design and construction whether certification is pursued or not.  For a thoughtful discussion of economic pluses and minuses of using the LEED system, in the context of university campus development, read Peter W. Bardaglio's "To LEED or not to LEED." 

Eventually we anticipate a broader, consumer-driven ratings approach that draws upon proven life-cycle data from constructed green buildings. A recent article on explores this possibility, and the growing demand for transparency of information in green building. Energy Star's work with home performance and new homes moves the residential sector in this direction of proven results, while its Building and Manufacturing Plants program addresses the commercial sector. However, Energy Star's ratings still reflect a thin slice of ecological impact with its energy-centric ratings system.  Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) is already starting to inform LEED's next generation, and will continue to shift the industry, and consumers, to consider our built and consumable environment in regenerative (C2C or Cradle to Cradle) terms by addressing impact before and after the use stage. 

Report downloads:
Green Building Market & Impact Report 2009
USGBC Green Jobs Study 2009

See our 2009 Green Building Reports article for some highlights from the above reports.

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